New Covid strains: Do we need to worry?
Updated: May 9, 2021
While several new variants of the Covid-19 virus have been identified, with mutations that increase their transmissibility, experts say that the precautions already being taken are enough for now
ven as Indian authorities register cases of three new Covid-19 strains—those first identified in South Africa, Brazil and the UK—a new variant has been recorded with three unique amino acid substitutions in its spike protein. (The spike protein is the part of the virus that binds onto proteins in the human host cell, thereby opening up the host cell to the virus.) So far, all the new strains of Covid-19 have shown changes that allow the virus to bind to human cells more effectively, thereby making them more contagious. However, in Manaus in Brazil, where 76 per cent of the population had already experienced the Wuhan strain of Covid-19, the cases of infection and deaths with the new Brazil strain are continuously growing. This suggests that previous infections by other strains of Covid-19 may not confer immunity to new strains. The UK strain has also claimed enough lives for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to publicly describe it as a “deadlier” virus. Indeed, a small observation study from researchers at the London School of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene indicates the UK strain might increase the likelihood of fatality by 35 per cent over the Wuhan strain. The study was published in medRxiv journal ahead of peer review. So are we potentially seeing Covid mutate into a deadlier, more infectious virus? Most experts disagree.