VUI-202012/01: what the new British strain of coronavirus carries
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VUI-202012/01: what the new British strain of coronavirus carries

22 December 2020, 13:58Society
Scientists have already dubbed the new mutation of the coronavirus by the abbreviation VUI-202012/01. Compared to other covid species, the new one is 70% more contagious. More than 20 countries have restricted air traffic with Great Britain, where a new strain has been discovered.

Meanwhile, there are versions that this is a kind of bacteriological weapon.

Irina Mishina

Англичане в панике покидают Лондон, где предприняты жесткие карантинные меры.

For the first time information about a new type of coronavirus appeared in the British media last week. The country's leadership, led by Boris Jones, has announced severe restrictions on the period of Christmas and New Years. In London and in the south-east of England, the fourth (maximum) level of threat of the spread of infection has been introduced. A new strain of coronavirus, according to WHO, was also found in the Netherlands, Denmark and Australia. A number of countries, including Russia, decided to suspend transport links with the UK due to the identification of a new variant of the coronavirus.

Viruses always mutate, and at a fairly high rate. Changes in bacteria and viruses are a form of adaptation. To date, the "British strain" of the coronavirus has been identified, before that the Danish one has been identified. But the new strain has 23 differences from the original at once, including in the way the virus binds to human cells. This is a lot to influence the effectiveness of vaccines. Scientists and experts are also investigating how the mutated virus can be more deadly compared to the already known variant. "NI" tried to find out the degree of danger of the new type of Covid-19.

“The virus will continue to mutate. The question is to what extent the new strain will be pathogenic, that is, capable of causing an infectious process. Some mutations of the coronavirus do not retain pathogenicity, so the disease is asymptomatic. At the moment there is no evidence that the "English virus" is any special and deadly. It has already been shown that the course of the disease in the case of infection with this mutation of covid is shorter. But this strain is more contagious. A patient with Covid-19 known to us infected an average of two, a patient with the "English strain" - an average of three. That is, the infectivity of the new strain exceeds 70%. But statistics are a crafty thing. The big question is whether the new mutation will elude vaccines. The data currently available to virologists indicate that the new strain is neutralized by the blood serum from the patient with covid, that is, the antibodies suppress the "English strain". I have no reason to believe that the vaccine will not work in this case, "said Pyotr Chumakov, molecular biologist, corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, head of the laboratory at the Institute of Molecular Biology of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

In the West, there are already the first conclusions about the degree of danger of the new strain of coronavirus. Several US research institutes have summarized its properties. We asked Olga Matveyeva, Senior Researcher at the University of Utah (USA), founder of Sendai Viralitics, to comment on this data.

“The new variant of the virus has 14 amino acid substitutions and 17 mutations. This is a lot, this has never happened! Viruses always mutate, but then there were changes in the whole branch at once, this is very significant. There is a well-founded hypothesis that the new mutated virus is spreading faster than the previous one. In England, they took extraordinary measures, and rightly so: in the case of viruses, one must act proactively. As for the efficacy of vaccines, there is reason to believe that they will be effective against the new strain", - told Novye Izvestia molecular biologist Olga Matveyeva.

Virologists agree that the UK authorities have taken the right step by taking extreme restrictive measures. Closing all types of transport links with this country is also a necessary measure. “The new strain is spreading 71% faster than others, according to preliminary data from UK-based NERVTAG, an advisory group on threats from new respiratory viruses. This strain contributed to a significant increase in the R number, which characterizes the rate of spread of the infection: according to various estimates, it increased from 0.39 to 0.93. The R number indicates how many people, on average, one carrier infects. The higher the R number, the faster the virus spreads. Thus, we can talk about a higher rate of spread of a new type of coronavirus, ”says molecular biologist Olga Matveyeva.

In the meantime, conspiracy theories about the origin of the new strain began to appear on social networks. Some have suggested that this is a kind of bacteriological weapon. “Almost all the doctors I spoke with think that the coronavirus is a bacteriological weapon. If you play conspiracy theories, then a warm bacteriological war is going on in the world. From the outside, it looks like the Americans have thrown the first strain into China. The Chinese responded by firing a stronger strain into the States and Europe. The Israelis threw a powerful strain into Iran, where there was the worst situation in the Middle East. I wonder who's hitting Britain now. Moreover, according to the British elite and the elites of other countries associated with it, living in rich London quarters. In fact, we are back in the Middle Ages. A single plague rat thrown through the gate can both lift the siege and contribute to the surrender of an impregnable city. We have been afraid of nuclear war for so many years, and as a result, the superpowers are fighting each other with the help of viruses”, - user svetan_56 wrote in Livejournal.

We asked scientists to comment on this version.

“Neither the new strain nor the coronavirus can be considered a bacteriological weapon”, - says Olga Matveyeva, molecular biologist and head of Sendai Viralitics (Boston, USA). - The virus mutated naturally. It is impossible to design such a virus on purpose. In addition, bacteriological weapons strike those who create them. Plus, this requires huge resources and funding on a national scale. I rely on scientific data and cannot comment on conspiracy theorists”, - molecular biologist from the United States Olga Matveyeva told NI. Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences Pyotr Chumakov agrees with her: “Today, scientists have no data that this virus is any special. Yes, the infection rate of the new strain is higher, but the illness period is shorter. There is no reason for panic".

The conclusion from this whole story is the same for scientists from different countries. First of all, you need to hurry up with vaccination. The less time a virus is passed from one person to another, the less likely the virus is to mutate and get out of control. The coronavirus strain identified in the UK is spreading rapidly, so protective measures must be taken. Now all over the world air traffic with Great Britain is terminated. At the same time, some countries also close automobile communication with the country. “The public arriving from the UK is quarantined for two weeks. And this is correct, there is nothing extraordinary here, ” explained Viktor Zuyev, virologist of the Gamaleya Research Center for Chemistry. At the same time, he did not rule out getting the "British" strain of coronavirus in Russia.

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