A new variant of the coronavirus was discovered in the UK recently and has now reportedly spread to other countries as well through travelers.
According to researchers, it emerged in the South-East region of the UK as early as September; however, it was not identified until later in November. As reported by the Imperial College London, the lockdown that was imposed in the UK in November but it was not very effective in controlling the virus and its spread.
The virus has been detected mostly in teenagers. According to the World Health Organization, amongst the new infections in the country, the new variant is responsible for more than half of these.
The variant has quickly spread to several other countries including the United States, Germany, France, Belgium, Italy, Middle East, Asia, and Australia.
However, in the US people in Colorado, California, and Florida have been tested positive for this new version.
As reported by the NPR global health correspondent in an interview with the Weekend Edition, the variant is also mutating and so far 17 mutations have been detected. He continues to explain that mutations are very common in viruses and they occur when the virus is reproducing and duplicating itself, but there are mistakes in the new copies.
Moreover, according to him, the mutations aren’t necessarily more harmful, they can also in some cases diminish the effect of the virus or in very rare cases, and they can enhance the virus.
Even though the new virus isn’t more lethal, it does spread at a quicker rate. Researchers are not yet clear about the details, what exactly the rate of spread is and why it spreads faster.
Several researchers have guessed the rate to be approximately 50% more than the normal version of the virus. The reason could be because the virus results in a growing viral load in the lungs and nose of an infected person. Other scientists propose that the new variant can combine with human cells more efficiently.
According to John Hopkins Coronavirus Response Center, this new strain has resulted in a record number of cases in Britain in December, with infections increasing by 862,000.