Hyderabad: One of the striking aspects of the new SARS-CoV-2 strain, known as B 1.1.7, is that within a short span, its genome has acquired 23 mutations, of which 17 mutations are perceived to be meaningful. However, by all indications it has not yet developed any special abilities to bypass basic precautions such as masking, physical distancing, hand-washing and avoiding mass gatherings.
Researchers, public health officials and experts believe that if the community continues to follow basic Covid-19 precautions properly, the new SARS-CoV-2 lineage 1.1.7 can be stopped in its track.
While there is no denying that the new strain could infect more number of people quickly, that too the younger population, the fact also remains that following practical advice and guidelines of public health specialists can help in breaking the transmission chains of the virus.
There is, however, a lot of uncertainty on how the new mutation of SARS-CoV-2 will behave and questions remain on its severity, mortality and morbidity on Covid-19 patients. Despite these lingering doubts, Director of Covid-19 Genomics UK Consortium and Professor of Public Health and Microbiology from Cambridge University Dr Sharon Peacock, whose group was the first to identify the new mutation in UK, has recently told media outlets that currently there is no evidence that B 1.1.7 causes more severe disease or that it has the ability to evade the immune system.
The top UK researcher also reported that currently there were no indications that the new strain would reduce the efficacy of the vaccines being developed in several countries.
The State health authorities have urged people to continue to take precautions. “So far, genetic researchers have not given us any indication that the new strain is virulent than the earlier one. The indication is that the B 1.1.7 variant is transmitting among people easily. However, precautionary measures, which we have been following meticulously in Telangana, to deny this virus a foothold will continue to remain the same,” says Director of Public Health Dr G Srinivasa Rao.
On its part, the World Health Organization (WHO) has advised all countries to increase the routine sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 viruses wherever it is possible and share sequence data internationally, particularly, if the same mutations of concern are found.
“All viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, change over time, but most of these mutations or changes do not have a direct benefit to the virus or may even be detrimental to its propagation. Further laboratory investigations are required to more fully understand the impact of specific mutation on viral properties and the effectiveness of diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines. These investigations are complex and require time and collaboration amongst different research groups,” the WHO said.
Now you can get handpicked stories from Telangana Today on Telegram everyday. Click the link to subscribe.