New Year, New Strains

By: | Tags: | Comments: 0 | January 28th, 2021

A new coronavirus strain has appeared in the UK, with a similar variant emerging in South Africa. In fact, there are over 50 novel strains today that have been identified worldwide. What does that mean for us?

The new variant of COVID-19 coming from the UK has appeared in over 5 states in the US, and is described to be 70% more contagious than other strains according to Dr. Erik Volz from Imperial College London. Additionally, another strain of SARS-Cov2 has popped up in South Africa. These new strains come from mutations occurring in the surface proteins of the virus, enabling it to be more effective in infecting a host. Variations in the COVID-19 vaccine are not a new phenomena. In fact, the one found in Wuhan, China in December of 2019 is different from the the strain that is infecting individuals in many parts of the world. Nevertheless, the variant from the UK is noteworthy because of its rapid rate of spread over the past weeks and mutations in the coat proteins of the virus that facilitate more effective entry into host cells. Preliminary research has indicated that the new strain from the UK is not any more dangerous than the current strain affecting many Americans.

Will the current vaccine still work against it?

  • Vaccines against viruses are designed in a way that attack multiple characterstics of a virus. That being said, mutations in the viral coat proteins should not be sufficient to prevent effective vaccination. In other words, the presence of our current vaccine will likely provide sufficient protection against these new strains. For those that have not been vaccinated, traditional COVID guidelines still apply in protecting against any new strains (mask-wearing, social distancing, washing hands, etc.)
  • As with the flu virus, new strains for SARS-Cov2 are something for scientists and vaccine experts to watch and study such that necessary adaptations can be made to existing vaccines and treatments. Thus, we should not overreact but continue to operate with wisdom.

The new strains of COVID-19 that have appeared in America are an important reminder that we must stay vigilant in protecting ourselves and continue practicing CDC guidelines. The vaccine is one step towards protection, but it is by no means a greenlight to begin acting recklessly.

Let’s continue to tread with caution.

Dr Joseph Taiwo

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