WE ARE CREATING IDEAL CONDITIONS FOR FURTHER VIRUS EVOLUTION
Dr Muhammad Torequl Islam
The Spanish fluinfected about 500 million people in 26 months. Its four-phased outbreaks
killed at least 50 million people in the world. Looking at the COVID-19
pandemic, it is not possible to estimate exactly how many waves we have and the
total number of deaths. The thing is that standing on the beach, we are
counting the waves crashing at our feet.
The SARS-CoV-2 has a
proofreading mechanism, which results in a low mutation rate compared to
influenza. Recently, it has been reported that the SARS-CoV-2 has been mutating
at a rate of about 1-2 mutations per month. Some recent emerging variants,
however, have accumulated significantly more mutations in short periods,
causing concern around the globe.
that spread persistently give rise to a new 'variant' of the virus are called
'lineages'. Scientists predict that these mutant lineages of the SARS-CoV-2
strain will not be the only concerning variants that emerge, as the continued
uncontrolled transmission of this virus in many parts of the world and
selective pressures, such as vaccines, are creating ideal conditions for
additional, significant virus evolution.
have recently made headlines, including a UK variant known as 501Y.V1, VOC
202012/01, or B.1.1.7 lineage, a South African variant known as 501Y.V2 or
B.1.351 lineage, a Brazilian variant known as 501Y.V3 or P.1 lineage and many
others. Some emerging variants are believed to be more transmissible and
therefore have the potential to increase hospitalisations and deaths,
especially in areas with already at-capacity healthcare systems.
The Indian experts
have theorised that the new wave of infections is driven by the 'double mutant'
variant discovered in the country, the B.1.617. Some of the SARS-CoV-2 variants
carry mutations that can escape detection by the immune system and neutralising
antibodies, or spread faster, or infect more, causing severe disease, or a
combination of these three behaviours.
The B.1.1.7 and
B.1.351 variants have been associated with higher viral loads compared with
existing variants in preliminary analyses