As always, the coronavirus is more complicated than previously thought. This time it could be good news.
UK Health Minister Matt Hancock on Monday created what an expert called the ‘panic of the day’ when he told the BBC he was ‘incredibly worried’ about the South African variant of the novel coronavirus. The UK government decided on Christmas Eve to restrict all flights to the UK from the country, the latest in a series of travel embargoes aimed at staving off the novelty of the terror pandemic.
“It’s a very, very important problem,” Hancock said, adding that “it’s even more of a problem than the new UK variant” of the virus.
But even as Hancock sounded the alarm that could be heard around the world, infectious disease experts from Britain to South Africa to Nebraska told the Daily Beast that there had no scientific evidence to support the panic.
Even if the prospect of an already brutal viral mutation remains inherently terrifying.
“We don’t have data on this,” said Andrew Preston, a researcher in microbial pathogenesis at the University of Bath in the UK.
Both variants were announced publicly in December after their detection earlier in the fall – one in the south-east of England and one in the Nelson Mandela Bay area of South Africa. They are similar in many ways, including an overlapping mutation that makes them more transmissible – or contagious – than previously established strains.
Still, there are a few “worrisome mutations” in the South African variant, according to James Lawler, an infectious disease expert at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the National Strategic Research Institute. There is no evidence that either variant is more deadly than the established strain of the coronavirus that has already killed more than 350,000 Americans. But mutations in the South African variant are located “on the commercial side of the spike protein” and “can affect infectivity and the ability of protective antibodies to recognize and bind to it,” Lawler said.
In other words, the fear – as always – is that the latest frightening mutation could reduce the vaccine’s effectiveness.
Worst case scenario: Mutations could “lead to some evasion of immune protection,” as Lawrence Young, virologist and professor of molecular oncology at the University of Warwick, UK Science Media Center, said. United.
There is still a long way to go to prove this theory.
While the mutations suggest “that this variant has an evolutionary advantage over other variants,” it is “difficult for us at the moment to quantify it,” said Dr. Richard Lessells, an infectious disease researcher working on the studies. genomics in South Africa on the variant.
Most experts agree that the newer variants appear to be more contagious, but we don’t know much about it.
For example, contrary to Hancock’s assertion on Monday morning, Lawler told the Daily Beast, of the South African variety versus the British variant, “I don’t think we know enough to say that the one is worse than the other. “
Another concern about the two new mutations: that unlike previous iterations of the virus, which were relatively unlikely to produce severe cases in young people, these could somehow hit younger ones harder – or at least with more. frequency. Most of the cases of COVID-19 identified as the new UK variant have occurred in people under the age of 60, according to the World Health Organization. But “it may just be the product of a larger mix of young people heading into the holidays,” said Dr Adrian Hyzler, UK-based chief medical officer of Healix International – a sentiment echoed by many others. experts interviewed. Monday. (“Age differences in disease onset are much more likely related to behavior,” Lawler noted.)
The British variant has been identified in Australia; Denmark; the Netherlands; the United States, Colorado, California and New York; Italy; Iceland; and elsewhere, according to the WHO. It is between more than 40% and 70% more transmissible than previous circulating viruses, the organization said. The South African variant, on the other hand, has been identified in Austria, Norway, the United Kingdom and Japan.
Ultimately, these new variations are here to stay. And while they’re not harbingers of the apocalypse, they could make everything from supermarket visits to mass market events more dangerous while Americans wait for a vaccine to be distributed.
“What we have seen is that [U.K.] This variant now replaces other variants “in the UK, Preston said. “The other thing that is really essential is that we still see the number of cases increasing, even under restrictions that previously seemed to cap cases. This suggests that it is [easier] so that this variant passes from person to person. If someone expires more virus, you may need to space people out more. “
In other words, current restrictions are less effective in preventing transmission of the virus as it evolves, and stricter rules – or tighter enforcement – may be needed.
Yet the fundamentals of how this disease kills will not change.
“The virus is always spread from person to person in exactly the same way – via droplets, aerosols and by contact – so it’s not that specific prevention tips need to be changed, but that these measures prevention must be more strictly adhered to, “Lessells says.
And although one of the main wake-up calls sounded by Hancock on Monday was a fear that the vaccines might not be effective against the South African variant, there is hope in that regard.
According to Lawler, there is no evidence that vaccines do not protect against these variants. And, Preston noted, “Even if they do affect the vaccine, we don’t know anything about how the immune system works that would indicate vaccine failure. [in a new variant]. “
This is another reason for optimism: The vaccines have not been tested on the strain that first appeared in Wuhan, China, in 2019. A certain amount of the mutation is already baked into the cake. the vaccination.
“Most vaccine trials would already have tested the vaccine on a range of variants that were circulating,” Preston said. “It would be very, very unlikely that it would go from 90% [efficacy] to zero. “
What is the emergence of variants Is This means that avoiding unnecessary social contact is all the more essential, even though the pace of the vaccine’s rollout in the United States can make it maddening.
As Lessells says, “If we continue to allow the virus to spread, it will evolve, and we just don’t know how other mutations in the virus might change its behavior.”
#Dont #Hype #South #Africas #COVID19 #Coronavirus #Strain