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Current Affairs

New Coronavirus strain spreading in UK

Date: 16 December 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

British scientists are trying to identify and analyse a strain of mutating Coronavirus that is spreading and causing Covid-19 in citizens.

 

Background

Many thousands of mutations have already arisen in the SARS-CoV-2 genome since the virus emerged in 2019 and it remains a challenge to tackle.

 

Details

  • The mutations include changes to the important “spike” protein that the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus uses to infect human cells.

  • The new variant, VUI – 202012/01, includes a mutation in the viral genome region encoding the spike protein, which could result in COVID-19 spreading more easily between people.

  • But there is currently no evidence that the variant is more likely to cause severe COVID-19 infections or that it would render vaccines less effective.

  • The majority of the mutations seen so far have had no apparent effect on the virus, and only a minority are likely to change the virus in any significant way, such as making it more able to infect people, more likely to cause severe illness, or less sensitive to natural or vaccine-induced immune defences.

 

Mutations

  • A mutation is a change in a DNA sequence. Mutations can result from DNA copying mistakes made during cell division, exposure to ionizing radiation, exposure to chemicals called mutagens, or infection by viruses.

  • Mutations arise naturally in all viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, as they replicate and circulate in human populations.

  • RNA viruses, like the flu and measles, are more prone to changes and mutations compared with DNA viruses, such as herpes, smallpox, and human papillomavirus (HPV).