Days after the UK announced that there was the spread of an unseen strain of the novel coronavirus- hitherto, appears to be more contagious than earlier variants of the pathogen was reported, another mutated strain of the virus has been reported.
On Sunday, South Africa announced a brand new strain of the novel coronavirus, which the country says has been spreading faster than the previous ones.
South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has said that a new strain of the novel coronavirus has been identified which was spreading faster, driving the second wave of the pandemic the country was going through.
He said people should be concerned about this new variant of the virus, but there was no reason to panic, reports PTI.
As South Africans headed towards holiday destinations or their ancestral rural homes for the festive season, the minister said there was concern that the novel coronavirus was affecting many young people and those with no comorbidities, who were among those least at risk in the early days of the pandemic.
According to The Week, South Africa stated that there was a concern that the novel coronavirus was affecting many young people and those with no comorbidities, who were among those least at risk in the early days of the pandemic.
"We have convened this public briefing today to announce that a variant of the SARS-COV-2 virus -- currently termed 501.V2 Variant -- has been identified by our genomics scientists here in South Africa," said Mkhize.
"The evidence that has been collated strongly suggests that the current second wave we are experiencing is being driven by this new variant," he added.
He announced the same on Twitter.
This genomics team, led by the Kwazulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform, or KRISP, has sequenced hundreds of samples from across the country since the beginning of the pandemic in March. #SARSCOV2MediaBriefing— Dr Zweli Mkhize (@DrZweliMkhize) December 18, 2020
The evidence that has been collated, therefore, strongly suggests that that the current second wave we are experiencing is being driven by this new variant. #SARSCOV2MediaBriefing— Dr Zweli Mkhize (@DrZweliMkhize) December 18, 2020
"We have two laboratories which are already growing the virus and we will start doing studies to answer that question. Once we've grown the virus, we will add in convalescence serum from those patients who recovered from the virus in the first wave to see whether it neutralises the virus," said Prof Salim Abdool Karim, the head of the government's Coronavirus Command Council.
Although mutations of the Sars-CoV-2 have been reported in recent months from various parts of the world, the VUI-202012/01 variant traced in the UK has raised cause for concern. Addressing a press conference, PM Johnson said that preliminary data evidenced that it is 70% more transmissible.
While the high transmissibility rate is alarming, there is no evidence yet of it causing severe illness or mortality rate. Moreover, scientists are still trying to discern why the strain is spreading faster. Stuart Neil, a professor of virology at King’s College London told Guardian that the new variant was associated with 10-15 percent of cases in certain areas until a few weeks ago but jumped to roughly 60% cases in London.
Mutation refers to a change in the genetic sequence of the virus which occurs as a result of its reproduction. The virus spreads by attaching itself to a host cell and injecting its genetic material into the cell. However, when the host tries to fight this reproduction, the virus finds new ways to survive, thereby adapting and evolving.
Most mutations, however, are not dangerous. Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, thousands of mutations have occurred in the novel coronavirus, but only a few have led to panic.
(With inputs from PTI and Reuters.)