A brief guide to mutations of COVID-19 - By Dr. Rafi Kot
The Corona Virus continues to create new mutations. In the hundreds. With a spread to other countries.
Which are the new types which have been discovered lately, what is the difference between a Mutation and a variant and how do these mutations affect us and why the race to vaccine the population is so critical in order to stop new mutations of popping up.
THE VIRUSES DO NOT REST: The evolutionary purpose of viruses is to spread around and they do it by Genetic mutations in order to overcome the human defense barriers, medications and Vaccines.
The very same can be said about the Corona Virus that according to scientists has already developed thousands of different mutations.
It seems however that the New Vaccines are able probably to overcome and block the mutations. Pfizer with cooperation of the German BioNTech are stating that their vaccines deals effectively with the new dominant UK and the New South African Mutations
Both Companies are basing their information on a research done by a group of scientists from the University of Texas and an additional work which has been supported by both Manufacturers.
The Scientists compared antibodies of twenty individuals who have been vaccinated twice during the clinical studies and were exposed to three variants which were reconstituted in the laboratory and included the main two mutations- the British mutation and the South African.
The research concluded that levels of antibodies created by the vaccine suffice for the UK mutations, are on the low side of protection for the South African Mutation, yet enough to protect and neutralize the virus.
Both Companies declared that they are monitoring closely the different mutations in the new variants and added that “they believe that the flexibility in using mRNA vaccine type enables them to create rapidly new versions in case of need”.
WHAT ARE THE NEW STRAINS?
- The UK Variant B.1.1.7
When discovered: October 2020 in the UK from samples taken from patients a month earlier. According to British health officials up to 40% of the patients have been infected with this Variant
The Mutation: This variant includes 17 mutations in the S envelope protein.
Meaning: This variant is spreading and becomes dominant in many countries in the world. According to data it does not increase the severity of the disease, however is easier and faster spread due to the mutation in its envelope proteins enabling it to attach faster to the human cells. Common in children due to the fact that it began parallel to the vaccination campaign.
- The South African Variant V2.501
When Discovered: December 2020 in S. Africa.
The Mutation: 10 different mutations, again, all located on the S protein which is the enveloping protein of the virus.
Meaning: This type started to spread at the same time as the British Variant and created a worry among scientists, after infecting people without preexisting medical conditions and children. Although the Worry, both Manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna have claimed their vaccines are effective against this variant.
- The Nigerian Variant B.1.1.207
When Discovered: August 2020 in Nigeria.
The Mutation: This Variant includes a Mutation called P681H which was found in the UK variant as well.
Meaning: Exists in up to 1% of the infections (DNA Sequenced) in Nigeria and probably spreads on from there.
- The Brazilian Variant P.1
When discovered: January 2021 in Tokyo among 4 Japanese tourists returning from a visit to the Amazon. A week later 13 new cases documented in Brazil.
The Mutation: This Variant has 17 genetic mutations in the amino acids which build the proteins of the virus. 1o out of these are located in the proteins which are part of the viral envelop.
Meaning: This Variant has been spreading too and has been documented in Japan, Brazil, USA, Peru, UK, Germany, South Korea and Italy
- The California Variant B/1/429
When Discovered: July 2020 in a Genetic mapping done on hundreds of samples collected in Los Angeles.
The Mutation: The Genetic Mapping of this variant is not completed yet
Meaning: This Variant is growing and spreading in California and currently constitutes 50% of the cases in that state. This Variant has not been researched completely yet, its sensitivity to vaccines is unknown neither documented and there is a true worry that this is variant is more violent and is the reason for the high mortality rate in the State.
- The Danish Variant Cluster 5
When Discovered: November 2020
The Mutation: Few mutations have been discovered on the surface envelope protein . Researchers feared that one of the mutations has led to a lessened antibody ability to protect against the Virus, leading to the possibility of recurrence in Patients who had COVID already.
Meaning: This Variant was suspected to pass from Minks to Human, hence the massive cull of minks in Denmark. The Danish authorities think that the Cull has eradicated this Variant completely.
- The German Variant
When Discovered: January 2021 among 35 Covid patients in the Germisch Pertenkirschen hospital in Germany.
The Mutation: Genetic Sequencing not finished yet.
The Meaning: Unclear yet, however under observation
WHAT IS A MUTATION?
In opposite to a bacteria which is a living entity on its own, Viruses have no possibility to exist outside a live cell. In order to multiply, viruses need to invade the living cell, take control of the living cells genetic matter, steal it and by that duplicate themselves in order to infect other cells.
The Virus tries relentlessly to induce changes in the wall of the living cell it intends to enter so he can penetrate easier and in a stealth manner where the immune system will not recognize him. By being able to do that the virus becomes is able to multiply itself faster, resulting in being more dangerous, virulent, and spreads faster.
The Corona Virus follows the same path. By the spikes on its envelope the virus attaches to receptors of ACE-2 cells which line the respiratory tree. This adhesion to the receptors of the ACE-2 cells move the Corona to stage two in which its proteins emulsify the wall of the living cell (ACE-2) and by that the Virus enters into the living cell, steals the genetic DNA content of the cell – located in the nucleus, , and starts to multiply.
However, in many cases the Virus will not be able to enter the living cell, and that is done by provoking the immune system of the body by attacking the Virus, an increase in some cases of the body temperature in order to create unfavorable conditions for the Virus to operate, while sending White blood cells to attack the virus.
In case the Virus has managed to penetrate the respiratory cells, it will start to multiply rapidly and infect other cells in a speed which will result in what is called an” immune storm”. In the storm the Body is mobilizing everything it can in its immune system to attack the Virus, resulting in killing the virus and killing as well healthy cells. This situation is known as a pulmonary infection which is one of the clinical entities of Covid patients.
As the Virus multiplies rapidly, it brings down the entire respiratory system, and while invading the blood stream, causing sepsis, which leads to a drop of Blood Pressure and ends in a cardiac arrest and death.
Why Do Corona Viruses create mutations?
Although not yet confirmed, the theory holds that the mutations have started among chronic patients infected by COVID who have been sick and treated in length by anti-viral medications or antibody therapy. The Virus has NOT been destroyed completely however,-The prolonged ailment has managed to create a new and virulent strain.
The Difference between a new Strain and a mutation:
There is some mix up in terminology:
Mutation is a GENETIC CHANGE. A new strain of the virus = VARIANT is a Virus which had one or more GENTIC CHANGES.
In the New Corona Strains there are New Mutations. Example: the British Strain carries 23 new Mutations.
What's the Difference between a NEW strains which carries Mutation to the “normal” Corona strains
The New Strains are probably more infectious, move faster and infect also the groups below 20 years of age, mainly due to the ability of better and FASTER ability to penetrate the human cell and to multiply and replicate at a very fast pace. Data from the Israeli Ministry of Health show that a patient carrying the British Variant manages to infect 6 people around him. Except of the speed of infection, all the rest of the clinical symptoms and the disease propagation are similar to the “normal” Covid .
How to protect ourselves
The regulations of protection against the normal Strain hold to the mutations as well. The faster a vaccination campaign will cover Populations at risk, medical teams, teaching teams and service providers the better the results. As quick as possible herd immunity (80%) in the general population will be achieved, the lesser the chance of new strains and mutations.