Dec 24, 2020

How Worried Should You Be About the New Strain of COVID-19?

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, genetics

Follow the links in the story for sources, the text is in red. A new strain of COVID-19 is causing a wave of new lockdowns in London and travel restrictions for those coming from the U.K. because some are worried that this may be an even more contagious version of the coronavirus. Experts say it’s definitely something to watch out for, but it’s not clear whether or not this variant is actually more transmissible—and there’s no reason to think the current COVID-19 vaccines won’t be effective against it. So what exactly is different about this new strain of COVID-19? Well, this variant (also called B. 1. 1. 7.) has a few mutations, 17 to be exact. Not all of them are concerning, but a few are. The mutations that have experts a little on edge have to do with genes that encode the virus’s spike protein, which is located on the surface of the virus and is the piece of the virus that helps it actually bind to human cells. (That’s the first step in becoming infected.) One of these mutations (called N501Y) may make it easier for the spike protein to bind to the receptors on our cells, Science explains. Another mutation (called 69-70del) affects the number of amino acids (the building blocks that make up a protein) in the spike protein, and variants with this mutation have been previously identified in some immunocompromised people whose bodies were unable to muster the necessary immune response to protect them from the virus.

It’s causing new lockdowns and travel restrictions.

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