In December 2020, UK health officials announced that a new strain of coronavirus is spreading rapidly in their country. A few weeks later, US officials discovered the first case in the United States. Writes about this Science News. By early April, this variant had become the most common form of coronavirus identified across the United States.
The news comes amid a spike in coronavirus cases in many states, including Michigan, where the new variant, dubbed B.1.1.7, accounts for nearly 58% of genetically tested samples collected as of March 27. This option is less common in California and New York.
Since the emergence of this variant in the United Kingdom, scientists have worked to understand how mutations in the virus’s genetic makeup could change its behavior, amid fears that the virus may have acquired the ability to evade vaccinations or cause more serious illness. Here’s what the researchers learned about B.1.1.7. This strain is 40-70% better transmitted than other types of COVID-19. A mutation in the spike protein that helps the coronavirus to enter cells allows the virus to adhere more tightly to the cellular protein and enter new cells faster. According to Eleni Nastuli, a clinical virologist at University College London, this leads to an increase in the amount of the virus in the body and a stronger spread throughout the body.
B.1.1.7 stays in the body longer than other options, which gives people more time to pass it on to others. It is more likely to cause certain symptoms, such as coughing, which can help spread the virus. For example, a study by the UK Office for National Statistics found that people infected with this strain are more likely to have a cough, sore throat, fatigue or muscle pain. However, other research did not find these claims to be proven.
Overall, B.1.1.7 is probably also more deadly, the newspaper writes. Research shows that being infected with this variant increases the risk of death by about 60%, possibly due to the high infectivity of this variant of the virus. This is because B.1.1.7 spreads more easily than other variants, which means that it can infect more people, some of whom will die. Another study found no increased risk of death even after adjusting for factors such as age, underlying conditions, or ethnicity. But other evidence suggests the UK virus is more deadly overall, says Nicholas Davis, an evolutionary biologist and epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. At the same time, scientists confirm that vaccination is also effective against B.1.1.7, as well as other variants of the virus.