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New Covid Wave, Doubt Over Vaccine Efficacy & A Global Struggle: Read About UK Strain of Coronavirus

Healthcare workers wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) collect swab samples from men during a rapid antigen testing campaign for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at an auditorium turned into a testing centre in Ahmedabad. (REUTERS)

Healthcare workers wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) collect swab samples from men during a rapid antigen testing campaign for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at an auditorium turned into a testing centre in Ahmedabad. (REUTERS)

The experts have claimed that the UK variant of the novel coronavirus is probably 30 to 70 percent more transmissible than the typical version of the virus causing covid-19.

India’s Covid-19 caseload snowballed in the past weeks after plummeting for five consecutive months. Amid the recent spike, a fresh cause of worry is the UK variant of coronavirus as 81 per cent of the 401 samples sent by the Punjab government for genome sequencing have tested positive for the variant.

The experts have claimed that this variant of the novel coronavirus is probably 30 to 70 percent more transmissible than the typical version of the virus causing covid-19. Early evidence suggests the variant of coronavirus that emerged in the UK may be more deadly, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had said.

The British variant has about 20 mutations, including several that affect how the virus locks onto human cells and infects them. These mutations may allow the variant to replicate and transmit more efficiently, an infectious disease expert at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland told The Guardian.

What is the UK Variant of Covid-19?

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Detected in the fall in the United Kingdom this mutation of the novel coronavirus is known as B.1.1.7. because of its molecular makeup. The UK scientists have said that the variant is probably more deadly, based on a follow-up study conducted by the government. The study revealed a larger sample size of covid-19 patients with the same mutation and also found a higher rate of hospitalisations.

The mutant strain of Covid-19 from Britain was first reported in India on 29 December last year in six passengers who had returned from the UK.

Is the UK Variant Reason Behind India’s Recent Spike?

The total number of cases with the UK, South Africa, and Brazil variants of SARS-CoV-2 in the country has reached 795, the Union Health Ministry said on Tuesday as India is witnessing a rapid surge in the coronavirus cases. From 400 cases reported on March 18, the infections by mutant strains have increased to 795 in the country.

As per World Health Organisation (WHO), in the three countries where the pandemic is being driven by the variant mutants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus- the UK, South Africa, and Brazil, the South African and Brazilian variants have the potential to reinfect persons who have been previously infected with the virus.

Are Other Countries Being Affected by the UK Variant?

Forty-five countries have so far identified the UK coronavirus variant, with experts warning that more countries could report sharp increases in cases in the upcoming weeks. So far, 13 countries have recorded community transmission of the B117 variant, which spreads faster and has helped push England into a third lockdown, The Guardian reported.

Experts have stated that the variant is about 56% more transmissible than previous variants of the virus. Countries including France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, and Italy have identified local transmission of the mutation.

Are Indian Vaccines Effective Against UK Variant?

Covaxin, the indigenously developed vaccine against the novel coronavirus, can work against the UK variant, a new study by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and National Institute of Virology (NIV) said. “Our study evidently highlighted comparable neutralization activity of vaccinated individuals’ sera against variant as well as heterologous SARS-CoV-2 strains. Importantly, sera from the vaccine recipients could neutralise the UK-variant strains discounting the uncertainty around potential escape,” the researchers said in the study published online in bioRxiv, a preprint server for biology. (‘Neutralization of UK-variant VUI-202012/01 with COVAXIN vaccinated human serum’)

An Indian Express report stated that the UK strain was one of the main reasons that Bharat Biotech received restricted emergency approval in India despite Covaxin not having completed enough large-scale human trials to show even interim information on its efficacy (ability to bring down symptomatic Covid-19 cases in those vaccinated).