(ORDO NEWS) — Alarming news has flown around the world this week: a terrible “brother” COVID-19 is raging in Foggy Albion. In blogs and even some media materials, the mutation has already been dubbed “COVID-21, hinting that the pandemic will continue in the next year, it will simply acquire, let’s say, new meanings. The situation has already been commented on by the WHO. True, in fact, nothing about the pathogen did not say.
“Does this make the virus more severe? Does it make it easier to transmit? Is it harder to diagnose? And will mutations affect the effectiveness of vaccines? We do not yet know the answers to these questions,” said Mike Ryan, head of the WHO emergency program at health care.
What is called a new variant of the virus is the classic SARS-CoV-2, but with a certain set of mutations. The British focus on two major changes affecting the spike protein of the virus. The first is at the so-called N-end of the sequence. And the second – in the receptor-binding domain, through which the infection enters human cells.
A mutation at the N-terminus is a deletion or simply loss from the chain of two regions: H-69 and V-70. And, in fact, there is nothing new in this – such changes have happened in the structure of the virus before, it just gets rid of the excess.
And that really makes him a little more dangerous. Studies in France have shown that this mutation slightly increases the chances of the virus giving a false negative when tested.
“Individual deletions that are now beneficial, which shorten his genome. That is, even give him a small benefit in the rate of reproduction. The shorter the genome, the faster the virus multiplies. Banal genetics,” explained Pavel Volchkov, head of the MIPT genomic engineering laboratory, virologist. immunologist.
The second change is noted in the N-501 region, at the very end of the spike protein. Roughly speaking, one amino acid changed for another: asparagine for tyrazine. Such a mutation in coronavirus is generally one of the most common. And in theory, it is believed that it can speed up and amplify the virus. But again, not much, as experts say. After all, this is just one amino acid out of about a thousand that make up the spike protein.
“It is clear that one mutation can spoil one specific epitope, one specific antigen for recognizing immunity. But there is still the rest of the spike, and the virus will not leave the immune system just like that,” noted Pavel Volchkov.
So the British form cannot be called a new virus, and the existing vaccines against it should work. A couple of missing amino acids and one replaced are too few to start worrying about.
“More vigorous than today’s virus, it is unlikely that it will be. In order for a new coronavirus to appear, changes must be made by 10-15%, respectively. And then the new form of coronavirus is pandemic,” said Mikhail Kostinov, head of the laboratory for vaccine prevention and immunotherapy. I. I. Mechnikov Research Institute of Vaccines and Serums.
And yet news from England reminds us once again that the virus continues to mutate. The longer it circulates among people, the faster its evolution proceeds. Therefore, it is possible that one day a more dangerous strain may still appear. However, it will be much easier to deal with it than with a new infection. For example, the Russian vaccine “Sputnik V” is a vector vaccine, and it will be much easier to remake it for a new variation of covid than to create a vaccine from scratch.
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