Vaccinate fast or the virus will become more deadly | India News
On January 8, a worker at a nursing home in Ontario, Canada, tested positive for the coronavirus. In the following two weeks, 127 of the 129 residents of the residence became ill and 32 died. Tests show that the British variant of the virus, which is known to be at least 40% more contagious, is the culprit.
The UK variant “501.Y.V1” caught the world’s attention in December only, but it has spread so fast that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expects it to be the main variant of coronavirus in the US in March.
In South Africa and Brazil, two other variants, named “501.Y.V2” and “501.Y.V3”, respectively, are also spreading rapidly. The South African variant has been shown to evade antibodies in people who have recovered from Covid. Scientists fear that vaccines may be less effective against it. The Brazilian variant also possibly re-infects people who have had Covid. It has devastated the city of Manaus which was believed to have achieved herd immunity last August.
The sudden appearance of three deadly variants in late 2020 raises the question, why now? For almost 10 months, the coronavirus spread around the world without much change. At least not in a way that changes their behavior. This allowed scientists to make vaccines in twice as fast time. But if the virus begins to mutate rapidly now, we could find ourselves back where we were last February.
Because right now?
All three fast-spreading variants have a common mutation that allows them to adhere strongly to human cells. The South African and Brazilian variants also have mutations that make it difficult for antibodies in the blood to recognize them.
Such mutations were of no use to the virus last summer, when the majority of the world’s population was not infected and had not developed immunity against it. It could be spread without hindrance. Now things are different. The virus is running out of easy targets in places like the US, UK, Brazil, South Africa and also India, where the number of new daily cases has dropped dramatically since September, possibly due to rising immunity.
Therefore, the virus must improve its ability to infect and evade. Not surprisingly, the stealthiest variants have emerged at Covid hotspots. “A regular spreader may no longer be able to find new hosts to infect, but variants with mutations that help them spread can still transmit and can take off from there,” writes Andrew Joseph in Stat.
How a virus changes
But how does a virus detect new tricks? Viruses are not very good at making exact copies of themselves. Every time they replicate, which is every few hours, there is a chance that something will change. The more cases of Covid there are, the more chances of mutation. Over time, mutations that are advantageous to the virus become more common.
Emma Hodcroft, an epidemiologist at the University of Bern, tells Der Spiegel that immunosuppressed patients, those who undergo chemotherapy, for example, are especially fertile ground for mutations, since a Covid infection in such a patient can persist for months. “The virus has a long time to figure out how to coexist with the human immune system.” The UK variant is believed to have come from such a patient.
Vaccines can stop this
All three mutants are bad news, but if the virus continues to spread rapidly, there will be many more and “there is no reason to believe that it will not be more efficient over time,” Cillian De Gascun, director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory at University College Dublin, says Der Spiegel.
This is why vaccinating people quickly has become important now. Slowing the pandemic will mean less transmission, less replication, and fewer mutations. “Stopping transmission blocks the opportunity for viral mutation; it’s the only thing that does. And the only means we have to get in the way of the virus is vaccination, “says Lawrence Wright in The New Yorker.