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New Coronavirus Strain in UK: Symptoms, Implications, Cases in India

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New Delhi, Dec 23: A new strain of coronavirus is sweeping across southern England, spurring heightened restrictions in the country and flight bans within Europe and globally. The United Kingdom has said that a fast-moving new variant of the virus may be 70 per cent more transmissible than existing strains and appears to be driving the rapid spread of new infections in London and southern England.

New Coronavirus Strain in UK: Symptoms, Implications, Cases in India

Britain has alerted the World Health Organization that the new strain - identified last week - is the likely cause of the surge in infections, accounting for around 60 per cent of London's cases.

Symptoms and implications

So far, scientists have noted two distinct set of mutations in the virus that causes Covid-19, the H69/V70 deletion, and the D614G, both of which affects the spike proteins, which helps the virus to bind to the human cell, and infect it. It is this ability that vaccines seek to target and weaken.

The H69-70 deletion affects antibody susceptibility and has been seen three times so far- in Danish minks, in Britain, and in a patient who was rendered much less responsive to convalescent plasma therapy.

Researchers have already used such experiments to investigate a mutant that arose earlier in the pandemic, called 614G. That variant proved to be more transmissible than its predecessors, studies in cell culture and animals found.

Experts say, the new virus strain emerged in Sep, may already be there in India

The new virus variant was first emerged in UK in September, it could have been already circulating in our country, but it is difficult to find out unless there are large scale infections.

On Monday, India joined several other countries in banning flights to and from the United Kingdom from December 22 to December 31 in hopes of curbing the spread of the new strain.

The strain not only comes from outside but also can independently develop within the country also.

It may take a few weeks to determine whether the new strain is present in India. That also depends on the frequent genomic sequencing of the isolates from infected patients. So far we are doing very less of it compared to western nations.

For instance, in England, around 10 per cent of the infected virus samples are sequenced to study the nature of the virus. It is entirely possible that the strong surveillance system in UK made it easier to find a new variant in the country.

We should be doing more RT-PCR tests and should be sequencing higher percentage of the samples, so that we can understand the evolving nature of the virus.

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