Coronavirus is changing. Variants of Sars-CoV2 in which the genetic material is modified and viruses created in this way have new characteristics that have been spreading for a few months. In Germany, too, these variants now make up the majority of new infections recorded. Here we explain what this means for the epidemic and the effect of vaccines.
Mutations are the norm
First of all: It is not unusual for viruses to mutate. Nor the fact that vaccines have to adapt to these new variants; The flu vaccine shows this every year. Here the vaccine is adapted for each new type of influenza virus. With Sars-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the current pandemic, we are fortunate that it is not as susceptible to mutations as the influenza virus. However, variants appear – and this is possible every time the genetic material for the virus is copied.
Mutations are transcription errors in the genome of a virus
The mutations are nothing more than typographical errors when the virus’s genetic material – in this case RNA – is copied. This occurs every time the virus replicates in an infected cell. As a result, new features appear sometimes, but not always. The resulting variables are subject to selection pressure. If a virus emerges that can impose itself against other forms – for example because it can penetrate cells faster – it has an advantage and can spread further.
There are four main types of viruses known
This is exactly what happened to Sars-CoV-2. The original virus model is called the wild type, and the designation of the newly established variants indicates the sites of the RNA where the relevant mutations are located. There are currently four main variants, three of which are currently used by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control – ECDC for short The ‘worrying alternative’, Any virus variable of concern, should be listed. They all have properties that either enhance their spread or possibly influence the pathway of Covid-19. They all have more than one mutation.
B.1.1.7 – the ‘British’ variant
This virus variant is much more contagious than the originally known Coronavirus, the so-called reproduction number is higher. According to current knowledge, this is mainly due to changes in the spike protein with which the virus penetrates into the cells of the body in case of infection. More precisely: mutations mean that the virus can bind more tightly to a specific receptor in cells. This high virulence means that B.1.1.7 displaces other virus variants such as the wild type Sars-CoV-2.
B.1.1.7 was initially described in patients from Great Britain in September 2020. This variant spread very quickly and became dominant. This one comes out British Health Authority report Appears. B.1.1.7 is also spreading to other countries, for example In Denmark, But also in Germany. In mid-March, the variable became dominant in this country: As reported by RKI, 55 percent of samples examined contained the “British” variant – the previous week it was 46 percent, the previous week only 22 percent.
It was already there in February Evidence from two unpublished UK studiesThat B.1.1.7 causes more severe cycles of Covid-19 and may be associated with an increased risk of dying as a result – compared to the original virus. The UK advisory board, NERVTAG, emphasized that the status of statements was not yet sufficient to make definitive statements. I posted one in mid-March Exeter University study Then he showed that B.1.1.7. More deadly than the wild type. Specifically, this means according to the data: in 4.1 out of a thousand cases, infection with B.1.1.7 leads to death, and in the wild type it is 2.5 out of a thousand.
The vaccines approved so far also work against B.1.1.7 – without their protective effect being significantly compromised compared to infection with the original virus (Read the RKI Rating). However, this does not apply without restrictions to variants such as B.1.1.7 E484K, which have now occurred in Great Britain but are considered rare. Researchers believe that the current vaccines are less effective.
B 1.351 – Alternative “South Africa”
B.1.351 infections were initially reported from South Africa, for the first time in December 2020. This variant is also considered to be more contagious than wild type Sars-CoV-2; It also contains many mutations in the spike protein that the virus sticks to the body’s cells to penetrate. Meanwhile, B.1.351 has been discovered in about 40 countries around the world. In South Africa, it dominates the contagion process. In order to determine the incidence of B.1.351 in Germany, samples of people with this variant are also searched for. It was found in 1 percent of samples examined in mid-March. But in Saarland, it was already responsible for about 15 percent of new infections. The mutated virus had previously spread mainly in the French region of Moselle, near the border. In such border areas there is now more vaccination.
exist According to current knowledge There are no indications that B 1,351 causes a more severe course of disease or carries an increased risk of death. However, experts are concerned about this alternative, as it appears to be able to partially evade the body’s immune response, such as after a vaccination or injury. This means it can also infect people who were previously infected with the original virus variant. This also means that the vaccines currently available against B.1.351 are less effective. This was examined, for example, for a vaccine from the manufacturer Astrazeneca and a preparation from Novavax, whose approval is currently being examined by the European Medicines Agency. The occurrence of variants like this (the British subtype B.1.1.7 E484K also has this characteristic) is a major reason for further development of vaccines. The main goal of vaccines developed to date is to prevent the development of a dangerous disease – and this has been possible until now with current preparations.
Pp. 1 – the “Brazilian” alternative
P.1 was first reported in January 2021. In parts of Brazil, this variant displaced the original virus and controlled the infection process. It has now been installed in about 20 countries around the world, including Germany. Here p 1 According to RKI Nader is currently a total of 17 cases were recorded in the second week of February.
P.1 contains genetic similarities to the variant B.1.351, the virus strain that first appeared in South Africa. Therefore researchers hypothesize that P.1 is more contagious than the original virus and may have properties that weaken the immune response, both in those who have recovered and those who have been vaccinated. This prediction is based on data that indicates that some antibodies produced by the immune system during illness or after vaccination are less effective. However, no severe courses were observed in COVID-19 patients from South Africa who were previously vaccinated with preparations from Novavax or Johnson & Johnson.
CAL.20C – the “California Alternative”
There is still little information available about CAL.20C – or B.1.429. According to a report issued by “Los Angeles Times“For the first time in September 2020. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco believe that this variant is partly responsible for the increase in the number of infections in the state. Based on laboratory studies and clinical observations, they suspect that CAL.20C is more contagious than the original virus and that it can cause.” More severe cycles of Covid 19. It remains unclear whether this alternative would make vaccines less effective.
CAL.20C is genetically characterized by five major mutations, three of which are in the spike protein. According to one in the specialized magazine “cell“ The published study weakens the effect of some antibodies.
The occurrence of this variant is of particular concern in association with the B.1.351 virus strain, which first appeared in South Africa. The researchers warn that selection pressure will develop between these variants, creating new viral variants with properties that undermine the effectiveness of better available vaccines. The extent to which large numbers of cases prefer the occurrence of other viral variants is Here To read. However, there is also some hope: Researchers now assume that the Coronavirus only produces a certain number of successful variants. “So the researchers could have already seen all the related mutations,” Our colleagues’ report on the “current research” program.. This could mean that a certain group of vaccines could be sufficient to contain an epidemic.
Vaccine manufacturers are also already developing new strategies to increase the protective effect against the now emerging variants. DLF Science Journalist Volkart Wildermuth has the curriculum discussed and examined Here Summarization.
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