Hyderabad: As countries across the world move towards adopting vaccines to check the Covid-19 pandemic, the United Kingdom has now reported a new strain of SARS-CoV-2, which apparently is causing a rapid rise of infections in the southeast part of England.
The UK researchers have named the new strain as ‘VUI-202012/01’ that includes a genetic mutation on the spike protein, which according to reports, could be the reason why the infection is spreading easily among the community. As a result of the new strain’s ability to spread and infect faster, UK authorities had to impose fresh lockdowns locally.
The new strain has the potential to challenge the vaccines developed by pharma industry including Pfizer, Moderna, etc, public health specialists familiar with vaccine development said. As of now, there is no clarity on whether the already developed vaccines will continue to remain effective for the new coronavirus strain. However, scientists point out that to be able to come up with the right answers, more studies have to be taken up quickly.
Unlike seasonal influenza, which usually has many strains, so far there have been not many reports on new strains of SARS-CoV-2. Due to lack of mutations, the scientific community around the world has been able to come out with an effective vaccine candidate for Covid-19 within a year.
However, the fresh announcement from a senior health official from the UK about a new strain has caused consternation among the public health experts, who have been charting the course of the pandemic and the coronavirus since March.
US-based public health researcher Dr Eric Topol, an authority on Covid-19, took to Twitter and had a word of caution towards the development. “This is going to require a rigorous assessment before it can be confirmed. It surely could be a new variant but unlikely to be functionally significant. Suspect it will be refuted or seriously questioned. Scientists also have maintained that it is highly unlikely that the mutation would be meaningful.”
On its part, the World Health Organisation (WHO) also has acknowledged the presence of a new variant of Covid-19 in the UK. The Executive Director, WHO Health Emergencies, Mike Ryan while interacting with presspersons said “We are aware of this genetic variant reported in 1,000 individuals in England. Authorities are looking at its significance. We have seen many variants and this virus evolves and changes over time”.
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