Coronavirus has become an irreplaceable element of our lives in recent times. Scientists and researchers were extensively researching against the virus that caused SARS and MARS prior to the pandemic. Currently, they have shifted their attention to the new variant SARS-COV 2, which is the main cause behind the pandemic.
The UK COVID Variant
Since the day of its discovery in early November of 2019, the SARS-COV-2 virus that caused the pandemic has been evolving rapidly.
The UK COVID variant is one such mutation of this Coronavirus that was discovered when the cases in London and Kent of the United Kingdom didn’t subside even after the undertaking of extensive lockdown and sanitization measures.
The B.1.1.7 variant is publicly known as the UK variant, British variant, or Kent variant discovered in November 2020 had infected a considerable number of individuals across the world by February 2021. It is considered to be more deadly and fast-spreading than its counterparts.
Why Is the UK Variant Deadly?
The Coronavirus infection is mainly dependent on the exposure to the virus, age, and medical history of an individual. This characteristic of the virus was the only hope when it came to the health of frontline workers, unaffected family members and friends while handling patients affected by the virus.
The younger and fitter people had easily evaded the infection even after being exposed to the virus. The new UK variant is considered deadly because of its easy transmission. Individuals who were at low risk of contracting the virus earlier are now susceptible to the virus at the same level as a front-line worker.
Scientists are not sure how this virus is more deadly, considering the natural characteristics of a virus is to lose potency after infecting many hosts, yet the UK variant seems to be growing stronger with time and the human immune system is unable to compete with it. Scientists have also added that the risk of death is high in people who tested positive for the UK variant within 28 days of being infected, a major cause for concern.
Another strange characteristic of the virus is that it can spread easily, yet it kills the host even before the host can transmit the virus to another host. Thus, scientists are yet to discover how this virus survives without a host and how it’s spreading in reality.
How Is the UK Variant Detected?
There are two ways to identify the infection in an individual.
- Full Genomic Sequencing- In this method, a strand of the individual’s DNA is tested completely for any altercations caused by the virus and identifies any future mutations of the virus as well. This procedure is time-consuming and requires a lot of resources.
- PCR Test- This is an easy and faster way to test for the virus. The swab samples from the individual’s nose and throat are collected and the results are analyzed.
Scientists have identified that a positive “S gene” indicates, the individual is affected by the COVID-19 virus while a negative “S gene” implies the individual has the UK variant.
Vaccines can be classified into four types
- Whole Virus– This is a common method used in most vaccines to stimulate immunity to fight against the pathogen, e.g., polio vaccination. They can be further divided intoA. Live Attenuated Vaccines- Live viruses that can replicate without causing serious illness are introduced to the host’s immune system to activate an immune response. They are not a good choice for individuals who possess low immunity.
B. Inactivates Vaccines- The gene of the virus is altered in a way that it cannot reproduce but still be able to activate an immune response. They are a good choice for individuals who possess low immunity or are from developing countries.
Covaxin, Sinopharm, and SINOVAC vaccines for corona are manufactured in this method.
- Protein Subunit– In this vaccination method, vaccines are created by using segments of the pathogen’s gene to trigger an immune response in the host rather than injecting the entire pathogen into the system. This method is more stable, safe, and effective along with booster shots without triggering an autoimmune disease, e.g., Hepatitis B vaccines.NOVAVAX vaccines for corona are manufactured in this method.
- Nucleic Acid– This method was not licensed for use on humans until the pandemic. In this type of vaccination, the gene of the pathogen is studied, and the genetic information of the pathogen is studied. A DNA or RNA structure that will have the antigen properties to destroy the pathogen will be created in the laboratory and injected into the individual.The individual’s immune factory will create similar-looking DNA or RNA protein structures as antigens that will destroy the infection once the system gets exposed to it, booster shots may be required depending on the individual’s response to the newly created antigens.
Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for corona are manufactured in this method.
- Viral Vector– This is an unconventional method of vaccination. From the common cold to cancer our bodies produce antigens to fight against foreign cells. The difference is, the number of antigens produced to fight against the common cold is enough to recover from the infection while the antigens produced to fight against cancer are not enough and the need for medically induced antigens arises,This method of vaccination provokes the immune system to produce antibodies in large quantities in a natural way after exposing the individual to a small fraction of the pathogens e.g, Ebola virus vaccines.
Oxford- Astra Zeneca and Sputnik V vaccines for corona are manufactured in this method.
Vaccines Vs The UK Variant
Novavax, Moderna, and Astra Zeneca are found to be effective against the UK variant yet scientists aren’t entirely sure that these vaccines will work for everyone as the death rate is high for individuals affected by the UK variant and there are not enough live cases to study the effects of the vaccines on a wide range of subjects to arrive at a conclusive decision.