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Wednesday, December 1, 2021
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New COVID mutant immune to vaccine ? Read to know more

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Visual by: Abiskar Banikya

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The last one and a half years have been the worst times for the world. Locked down helplessly under the Covid-19 pandemic, we have lost millions of people to this deadly virus. Although, with the rolling out of vaccines, there has been a sigh of relief for people around the world, we are yet to get back to our long-awaited normal lives.

As we know, viruses continually change through mutation and when a virus goes through multiple mutations, the resultants are called variants of the original virus.

At present, quite a few variants of the virus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) are a cause of concern in the world. The variant that was detected in India was officially known as B.1.617 wreaked havoc during the second wave. Although research suggests that COVID-19 vaccines are slightly less effective against the variants, the vaccines still appear to provide protection against severe COVID-19.

COVID COVID The North-Eastern Chronicle

However, lately researchers have come across a new variant of COVID-19 termed Mu. Branded as the “variant of interest” by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the World Health Organization (WHO) says this variant could have the capability to elude the immunity people get from vaccines and previous infections.

Reason behind mutation of Virus

A variant of the virus occurs when there is a change or mutation in the original genomic structure of the virus. It is the general nature of the RNA of the virus including coronavirus to evolve and change structure over time. That may happen due to geographic separation. The changes in the structure of the RNA in the case of a virus is not new and the same goes for COVID-19. All viruses including flu and cold mutate over time. That’s why it is recommended to take a flu shot every year to deal with the newer version of the virus.

Global Prevalence of the Mu Variant

COVID

Called Mu, the B.1.621 variant was first detected in Colombia in January this year. In the past seven months, its presence has been reported in about 39 countries across the globe. The WHO assessment said the Mu variant has a constellation of mutations that indicate potential properties of immune escape.

“Since its first identification in Colombia in January 2021, there have been a few sporadic reports of cases of the Mu variant and some larger outbreaks have been reported from other countries in South America and in Europe,” it said.

The global prevalence of the Mu variant among sequenced cases has declined and is currently below 0.1%, the WHO said. However, prevalence in Colombia (39%) and Ecuador (13%) has consistently increased.

Is it Vaccine resistant ?

Covid 19 vaccine COVID The North-Eastern Chronicle

The genomic structure of the Mu variant is different from the original strain of the virus which implies that it can easily evade the protection provided by the COVID-19 vaccines being administered across the globe.

According to the early studies by researchers from Italy, the Mu variant is susceptible to antibodies produced by the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. However, they do not work as efficiently as they work on the original strain of the virus. Another early research from the UK suggests that specific mutations may help the Mu variant escape the immune system.

The vaccine currently being administered was developed according to the genomic structure of the original strain of the virus. Most of these vaccines target the spike protein of the virus when they try to insert it into the cells. Vaccines expose us to the spike protein of the virus so that our immune system learns to fight after coming in contact with the COVID-19.

Due to the change in the structure of the spike protein in the variant, the vaccine may not be that effective on them.

Optimism for now

The only reassuring thing is that even after being around since January, this variant doesn’t seem to be outcompeting the Delta variant, which is dominant across most parts of the world.

So, a new variant of the virus may arrive from time to time and can even escape from the protection provided by the vaccination. It is hard to tell which variant would be more contagious or would be immune to the vaccine. For the same reasons, booster shots are being introduced. The booster shots help to fight the variants and reduce the risk of infection. Booster shots are administered in many viral infections like flu, tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (DTaP).

Also Read: Decoding the Covid-19 pandemic! Is it the virus or is it us?

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