Evolution Of Coronavirus: Here's What You Need To Know About The Variants Of SARS-CoV-2 Virus
SARS-CoV-2 virus variants: B.1.1.7, B.1. 351 and P. 1 are the three variants of coronavirus that have been detected so far. Here's what you need to know about their transmissibility and severity.
Coronavirus variants: B.1.1.7 and B.1.351 variants have been found to have increased transmissibility
- Coronavirus variants: B.1.1.7was first identified in the United Kingdom
- B.1. 351 was first identified in South Africa
- P. 1 is circulating in Brazil
There are several variants of the SARS-Cov-2 virus or coronavirus, which is responsible for the ongoing pandemic. The World Health Organization, along with its partners, are currently tracking three virus variants that are circulating around the world. "The first variant is B.1.1.7, which was first identified in the United Kingdom. The second variant is the B.1. 351, which was first identified in South Africa. The third variant is the P. 1. It is circulating in Brazil, but it was identified among travellers arriving in Japan," says Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, Technical Lead, COVID-19, World Health Organization.
SARS-CoV-2 variants: Here's what you need to know
Dr Kerkhove goes on to add that scientists are currently tracking changes in the virus and what this means in terms of transmission, severity and potential impact on diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines. "So far, the information that we have is that there is increased transmissibility in the B.1.1.7 and B.1.351 virus variants. This is resulting from a mutation that allows this virus variant to bind to the human cell more easily," she informs.
Speaking of the P.1 variant, an increase in its transmissibility is not yet seen, but investigations are underway for the same.
There are studies from the United Kingdom that suggest that the B.1.1.7 has increased severity as well, says Dr Kerkhove. "Studies are underway to evaluate the effect of vaccines against these virus variants. And from the information available so far, the vaccines still work against these virus variants," she adds.
How WHO is tracking these variants
Around the world, different mutations and variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus are being tracked through genomic sequencing. Many countries have been sequencing viruses from the beginning of this pandemic.
The variants that are important are the ones which undergo changes in the way that the virus behaves. "Either they may have increased transmissibility, they may cause more severe form of disease or they may have some kind of impact on the workings of our diagnostics or therapeutics and vaccines. These are the variants of concern which need to be studied properly," says Dr Kerkhove while adding that this is important to make changes in the public health and social measures; development of diagnostics or the vaccine composition.
How to protect yourself against the new variants of coronavirus
Physical distancing, hand hygiene, wearing a mask, respiratory etiquette, opening the window, avoiding crowded places, staying home when unwell, getting tested if needed and following the local advice are all important preventive measures against the new variants of coronavirus.
Transmission of the virus can be reduced with the help of these measures.
(Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, Technical Lead, COVID-19, World Health Organization)
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