General, Research, Technology

Is it true that the new COVID-19 strain is more dangerous than the previous ones?

A more contagious strain of SARS-CoV-2, recentlyidentified in England continues to spread across the planet. Scientists do not yet have a complete understanding of this variant of the coronavirus, but the data they do have suggests that it is significantly more contagious than the strains that have dominated the pandemic so far, Science Magazine reports. As it became known on January 8, experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized that the speed of the spread of the new variant of the coronavirus is unprecedented. This speed of spread of the virus could lead to the fact that the new strain will become the dominant global variant, leading to a new wave of infection, hitherto unprecedented in scale. At the same time, experts note that the trajectory of this wave is much more difficult to predict than the first spread of COVID-19 around the world, which means it is incredibly difficult to predict how the pandemic will advance in 2021. We tell you what is known about the new version of the deadly virus and how further events may develop.

Virologists suspect that multiple mutationsoccurred in a patient with a severely suppressed immune system who incubated Sars-Cov-2 for many weeks and then infected someone else. These conditions are likely to overload the mutation process.

New strain COVID-19

Over time, viruses undergo mutations.During the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists around the world have documented thousands of mutated versions of the coronavirus, called variants or strains. Some of these options are being closely monitored by health experts around the world, as well as by WHO experts. Scientists are particularly concerned about the British and South African variants because they appear to spread faster than the original strains of the infection.

For the first time, a more contagious strain of COVID-19 has beendiscovered in mid-October 2020, after researchers from the Genomics UK Consortium (Cog-UK) read the complete genetic code of the coronavirus in two samples collected in Kent and London on September 20 and 21. The new version of SARS-CoV-2 was named B.1.1.7, after researchers linked it tothe rapidly growing number of infections in South East England. By early November, the new strain was responsible for 28% of infections in London, and since November 29, 63%.

Interestingly, B.1.1.7 has many more mutations than any previous coronavirus variant analyzed since the start of the pandemic. Twenty-three letters of the virus's genetic code have changed, of which 17 can significantly change behaviorvirus. Changes in the virus genome include several mutations of a key "spike protein" that the virus uses to enter human cells.

Changes in the SARS_CoV-2 genome have already led to the fact that it has become much more infectious.

Computer simulation of the spread of the virussuggests that the British variant could be 50-70% more transmissible than other Sars-Cov-2 strains. Outside the United Kingdom, B.1.1.7 has been found in Denmark, Australia, Italy, the Netherlands and Iceland, but scientists suspect that it has already spread to many more countries.

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As the researchers write in Science, the evidence to date suggests that B. 1.1.7 is no more lethal than other strains of coronavirus, but the new variant is still makes the infected more likely to spread the disease, which greatly increases the risk of transmission in hospitals and will result in more deaths in the long term.

Additional concerns include the question ofwhether COVID-19 vaccines will be less effective or even completely ineffective against new options. Experts say the latter is unlikely and there is no evidence yet, but they continue to study new strains. In addition, the head of the German vaccine manufacturer BioNTech expressed concern that more infectious strains could make it difficult to achieve so-called herd immunity, since the threshold for sufficient protection in a community depends on the speed at which the virus spreads.

What do scientists know exactly about the coronavirus?

As COVID-19 spreads around the world,researchers continue to receive new data on this deadly disease. As Science Alert writes, today there is more and more evidence that the coronavirus enters the brain and causes serious damage to it. So, from different countries of the world there continue to be reports of severe neurological symptoms that are observed in hospitalized patients. Symptoms include delirium, and some patients develop psychosis.

Let's hope that the expanded vaccination program will help humanity to overcome the pandemic faster.

See also: Are vaccines effective against a new strain of coronavirus?

Note that since SARS-CoV-2 is newthe virus, our knowledge about it will be constantly replenished, as scientists around the world are closely monitoring the development of the situation. At the moment, the world is gripped by a new wave of COVID-19, and according to Johns Hopkins University, the number of deaths in the world has almost reached two million, and the total number of infected exceeds 88 million.

In Russia, the situation with the spread of coronavirusalso remains serious, so we remind readers that the best thing to do in the fight against this infection is to follow all the recommendations of the World Health Organization - to minimize contact with others as much as possible, wash your hands thoroughly, wear masks in public places and follow the rules of social distancing. Be healthy, take care of yourself and loved ones in the New Year!