5 COVID-19 Variants Experts Are Watching

5 COViD-19 Variants Experts Are Watching Advertisement By: Paulo Verardi  | Apr 9, 2021 Spring has sprung, and there is a sense of relief in the air. After one year of lockdowns and social distancing, more than 171 million COViD-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the U.S. and about 19.4 percent of the population is […]

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5 COVID-19 Variants Expe Are Watching

By: Paulo Verardi
 | 

Spring h sprung, and there is a sense of relief in the air. After one year of lockdowns and social distancing, more than 171 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the U.S. and about 19.4 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.

Spring h sprung, and there is a sense of relief in the air. After one year of lockdowns and social distancing, more than 171 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the U.S. and about 19.4 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.

But there is something else in the air: ominous COVID-19 variants.

I am a virologist and vaccinologist, which means that I spend my days studying viruses and designing and testing vaccine strategies against viral disees. In the ce of COVID-19, this work h taken on greater urgency. We hus are in a race to become immune against this cagey virus, whose ability to mutate and adapt seems to be a step ahead of our capacity to gain herd immunity. Because of the variants that are emerging, it could be a race to the wire.

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RNA viruses like COVID-19 constantly mutate they make more copies of themselves. Most of these mutations end up being disadvantageous to the virus and therefore disappear through natural selection.

Occionally, though, they offer a benefit to the mutated or so-called genetic-variant virus. An example would be a mutation that improves the ability of the virus to attach more tightly to hu cells, thus enhancing viral replication. Another would be a mutation that allows the virus to spread more eily from person to person, thus increing transmissibility.

None of this is surprising for a virus that is a fresh arrival in the hu population and still adapting to hus hosts. While viruses don’t think, they are governed by the same evolutionary drive that all organisms are — their first order of business is to perpetuate themselves.

These mutations have resulted in several COVID-19 variants, leading to outbreak clusters, and in some ces, global spread. They are broadly clsified variants of interest, concern or high consequence.

Currently there are five variants of concern circulating in the U.S.:

Each of these variants h a number of mutations, and some of these are key mutations in critical regions of the viral genome. Because the spike protein is required for the virus to attach to hu cells, it carries a number of these key mutations. In addition, antibodies that neutralize the virus typically bind to the spike protein, thus making the spike sequence or protein a key component of COVID-19 vaccines.

India and California have recently detected “double mutant” variants that, although not yet clsified, have gained international interest. They have one key mutation in the spike protein similar to one found in the Brazilian and South African variants, and another already found in the B.1.427 and B.1.429 California variants. of today, no variant h been clsified of high consequence, although the concern is that this could change variants emerge and we learn more about the variants already circulating.

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These variants are worrisome for several reons. First, the COVID-19 variants of concern generally spread from person to person at let 20 to 50 percent more easily. This allows them to infect more people and to spread more quickly and widely, eventually becoming the predominant strain.

For example, the B.1.1.7 U.K. variant that w first detected in the U.S. in December 2020 is now the prevalent circulating strain in the U.S., accounting for an estimated 27.2 percent of all cases by mid-March. Likewise, the P.1 variant first detected in travelers from Brazil in January is now wreaking havoc in Brazil, where it is causing a collapse of the health care system and led to at least 60,000 deaths in the month of March.

Second, COVID-19 variants of concern can also lead to more severe disee and increed hospitalizations and deaths. In other words, they may have enhanced virulence. Indeed, a recent study in England suggests that the B.1.1.7 variant causes more severe illness and mortality.

Another concern is that these variants can escape the immunity elicited by natural infection or our current vaccination effo. For example, antibodies from people who recovered after infection or who have received a vaccine may not be able to bind efficiently to a variant virus, resulting in reduced neutralization of that variant virus. This could lead to reinfections and lower the of current monoclonal antibody treatments and vaccines.

Researchers are intensely investigating whether there will be reduced vaccine efficacy against these variants. While most vaccines seem to remain effective against the U.K. variant, one recent study showed that the AstraZeneca vaccine lacks efficacy in preventing mild to moderate COVID-19 against the B.1.351 South African variant.

On the other hand, Pfizer recently announced data from a subset of volunteers in South Africa that suppo high efficacy of its mRNA vaccine against the B.1.351 variant. Other encouraging s is that T-cell immune responses elicited by natural COVID-19 infection or mRNA vaccination recognize all three U.K., South Africa and Brazil variants. This suggests that even with reduced neutralizing antibody activity, T-cell responses stimulated by vaccination or natural infection will provide a degree of protection against such variants.

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What does this all mean? While current vaccines may not prevent mild symptomatic COVID-19 caused by these variants, they will likely prevent moderate and severe disee, and in particular hospitalizations and deaths. That is the good s.

However, it is imperative to sume that current COVID-19 variants will likely continue to evolve and adapt. In a recent survey of 77 epidemiologists from 28 countries, the majority believed that within a year current vaccines could need to be updated to better handle variants, and that low vaccine coverage will likely facilitate the emergence of such variants.

What do we need to do? We need to keep doing what we have been doing: using mks, avoiding poorly ventilated are, and practicing social distancing techniques to slow transmission and avert further waves driven by these variants.

We also need to vaccinate y people in y places and soon possible to reduce the number of ces and the likelihood for the virus to generate variants and escape mutants. And for that, it is vital that public health officials, governments and nongovernmental organizations address vaccine hesitancy and equity both locally and globally.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. You can find the original article here.

Paulo Verardi is an sociate professor of virology and vaccinology at the University of Connecticut. He receives funding from the National Institutes of Health, United States Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense and the University of Connecticut.

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5 COVID-19 Variants Expe Are Watching


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Happiness is for those who plan well and pursue. A profound among us have been proven those who have true dream to live for likely REALIZED IT. It is just simply the person working toward the DREAM days and night until accomplishment. There is a phrase of efficiency a head of you. Steps and obstacles at first seem tremendous. However, just with some times those difficult steps and challenges are so easy performance for you. There are also plenty of tools including VISUALIZATIONS and helps are around you.

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