PHOTO CREDITS: REUTERS
A new mutant strain COVID-19 has appeared in southern England, infecting over 1000 people (Forbes).
The Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, said the new variant. “may be associated with the faster spread in the South of England,” (Business Insider). Hancock is referencing the recent rise in cases in London, Kent, parts of Essex, and Hertfordshire (Business Insider). Scientists, however, caution that other factors could be causing the increased spread (The Guardian).
This strain of COVID-19 is not the first mutation; the virus has mutated approximately twice per month, sitting at 25 mutations since its first appearance in Wuhan, China (BBC). This is not abnormal to viruses, as many scientists report frequent mutations with viruses (BBC). Most virus mutations either have no effect on transmission and disease; however, some mutations will make a virus less effective at transmission, causing the strain to die out (The Guardian). This mutation, however, affects the spikes of the virus, which are how the virus infects human cells (BBC). Scientists also note that non-genetic factors can play many roles in transmission (Business Insider). For example, the “Spanish Strain” had a high infection rate due to people coming home from holiday over the summer (BBC).
Scientists are asking people to remain calm, and wait for research to determine if the mutation has an effect on spreading (The Guardian). There is some concern that the mutation will interfere with the effectiveness of the vaccine, as the three leading vaccines all train the immune system to attack the spike (BBC). However, officials state that the vaccine will still work, since it trains the immune system to attack multiple parts of the spike, not just the part affected by the mutation (BBC).
WORLD NEWS EDITOR: DANIEL ENGLAND