A variant virus is a virus that has developed a mutation in its genetic sequence, resulting in physical changes to its protein structures, and ultimately its behaviour.
Although the word mutation can sound scary, it simply describes the virus as being different from the original strain. Viruses mutate naturally all the time! Mutations can make the virus stronger, weaker, or have no effect at all.
DISCOVERED IN THE UK
This variant accumulated 17 mutations in a very short time. One of the important mutations is N501Y, found on the Spike protein of the virus. This mutation improves how the Spike protein binds to human cells. Essentially, this mutation makes the COVID-19 virus more “sticky” to human cells.
Spreads 50% more easily and quickly
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
DISCOVERED IN SOUTH AFRICA
In addition to N501Y, mutations K417N and E484K are also found on the Spike protein of this virus, specifically on the Receptor Binding Domain (RBD). Our body’s immune system detects the virus through its RBD. These mutations alter the shape of the RBD, therefore “hiding” the virus from our immune system.
Spreads more easily and quickly
Better at evading our immune system
SHOULD YOU BE CONCERNED ABOUT THE NEW VARIANTS?
Here are the facts, based on available data:
While the variants spread more easily and quickly (they are more contagious) than the original strain, they are NOT more deadly. However, they can result in more COVID-19 cases, leading to more hospitalizations, and potentially more deaths.
PCR tests (the gold standard in COVID-19 testing) can still detect the new variants.
Early studies show that Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are effective against the variant, but their effectiveness may be reduced.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
To limit the spread of COVID-19 and its new variants, we must continue to:
WASH YOUR HANDS
The COVID-19 vaccines are becoming more available around the world. These vaccines are a clear example of the great effort and collaboration between thousands of scientists who have tested, re-tested, and tested again their safety and efficacy. When it is your turn, get the shot! You will not only be protecting yourself but also the members of your community.
New variants are more likely to appear with more COVID-19 cases, so it is up to us to prevent further spread of the virus!
PHYSICALLY DISTANCE FROM OTHERS
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