After genome sequencing, researchers have discovered a new variant with two new mutations. These are now known as the E484Q and L452R mutations.
According to the data shared by India to the global repository Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID) the double mutation coronavirus found in Maharashtra may be becoming the most prevalent among all mutant variants in India.
NEW STUDIES ON COVID 19
A new assessment recently published in The Lancet journal states that there is consistent, strong evidence to prove that the SARS-CoV-2 virus, behind the COVID-19 pandemic, is predominantly transmitted through the air. The analysis by six experts from the UK, the US and Canada says public health measures fail to treat the virus as predominantly spreading through the airborne route. Hence, leaving people unprotected and allowing the virus to spread.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF THE NEW VIRUS?
As per the latest report by the National Institute of Health, about half of the patients have new symptoms.
One of them is dry mouth, also known as Xerostomia. This happens when the virus attacks the oral linings and muscle fibers. Patients may develop this condition even a few days ahead of fever, sore throat, or other known or associated symptoms. People who have developed dry mouth or dry tongue may also find it difficult to chew food and speak.
While the most common symptoms remain – dry cough, fever, loss of taste, and smell – there has been evidence of the mutated forms of the virus producing different symptoms. The new virus is reportedly more transmissible.
Some studies have established that the virus can quickly escape immune defences present along some vital organs, and unleash an attack in more impactful ways.
Fever is not predominantly seen with all cases carrying the original strain. While it is considered to be a more severely seen symptom in cases tested positive for the new mutation.
Reports have also stated that certain other symptoms such as hearing loss, muscle pain, skin infections and distorted vision, stomach upset and conjunctivitis, which are otherwise scarcely observed, may be more common with the newer strains.
Despite the intensity of the new strain, people also need to exercise continued caution by following the successful protocols of hand sanitization, masking, and social distancing as a means to curtail the second wave of the virus.
WHAT MAKES THE VARIANT DIFFERENT?
The genetic material of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, is called ribonucleic acid (RNA). To spread infection, SARS-CoV-2 RNA must hijack a host cell. The spike glycoprotein enables the virus entry into the host cell via binding to cell receptor and membrane fusion.
Once the virus is inside a host, it uses the cell’s machinery to duplicate itself.
During the duplicating process of viral RNA, errors often occur. As a result, new viruses are produced that are not exact copies of the original virus.
These errors in the viral RNA are called mutations.
And viruses with these mutations are called variants.
Variants could differ by a single or many mutations.
This can be better comprehended by understanding what genetic codes are. The genetic code is the code our body uses to convert the instructions contained in our DNA the essential materials of life.
In other words, genetic codes are like blueprint on which all organisms are built.
For humans it is DNA and for SARS-CoV-2 it is RNA.
When these single mutations occur in a part of the virus RNA, it causes a change in a particular building block. In some cases, there could be many mutations that together alter the building block.
Hence a variant shows distinct physical properties and is referred to as a strain. This strain, because it is built differently, also behaves differently compared to its parent virus.
The virus uses its spike protein to penetrate human cells. Spike proteins attach via a “receptor binding domain”- meaning that the virus can attach to receptors in our cells.
Both these mutations are located in a key portion of the virus — the spike protein. Hence, the new variant is a “better fit” for human cells. In other words, it can gain entry more easily and multiply faster.
What’s worrisome is that it might make it harder for our immune system to recognise the virus due to its slightly different shape. This means our immune system may not be able to recognise the virus as something it has to produce antibodies against.
WHAT CAN I DO TO PROTECT MYSELF AND OTHERS FROM COVID-19?
The following actions help prevent the spread of COVID-19:
Wear a face mask.
Maintain at least six feet of distance between yourself and others.
Avoid large gatherings.
When you step outside for work, carry a hand sanitizer to use whenever possible.
If you have to, then socialize outdoors.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Minimize touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Stay home when you are sick.
Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
Sanitize and clean frequently touched objects and surfaces regularly.
Wash your hands often with soap and water.
Get vaccinated as soon as you are eligible.
Disclaimer – All data and statistics are based on publicly available data at the time of publication. For latest information on covid19 pandemic, visit – https://www.mohfw.gov.in/ (Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India) or Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID).