Mutations of Covid -19 Viruses- The past and the present

The term evolution is not just limited to mankind, from a microscopic virus to human beings, evolutions keep happening from time to time. The scenario is similar to the virus causing Covid-19, it includes viruses like SARS-CoV-2. The virus keeps duplicating itself, it tries to change and the process seems to be quite common in viruses. Now, these changes are called Mutations of Covid-19 viruses. The mutations of these viruses are referred to as the variant of the original one.

Throughout the pandemic, the Sars-CoV-2 has mutated itself which results in genetic variation. Due to the viral mutation, its molecular structure, antigen, and serology have been altered and there is the inheritance of different designs in each test. Let us study the mutation of the Covid-19 virus - in the past and present.

What is Coronavirus?

Coronavirus is a type of virus, identified as SARS-CoV-2 in the year 2019 which causes respiratory problems called Covid-19. It was first seen in December 2019. The disease can be severe as has millions of deaths around the world and health problems are seen by the survivors. It can spread from person to person. They are a large family of viruses causing common colds and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

How does the coronavirus spread?

As per the researchers, the coronavirus is spread through the droplets of the virus which is transmitted from the breath of infected people that is released into the air, as the patient talks, sneezes, or coughs. While the larger droplets may tend to fall into the ground, the tiny droplets linger in the air and shall accumulate in indoor places, especially in places where the ventilation is quite poor. It is also possible to catch the disease by touching the objects or surfaces that are contaminated with the virus.

That is why wearing masks is very much mandatory. The essentials to prevent the Covid-19 virus are by wearing masks, maintaining hygiene, and physical distance.

History of Coronavirus

The first case of Coronavirus was reported in 2019 on Dec 1. SARS-CoV-2 is suspected to have originated from animals and mutated to cause severe disease among human beings. There were noticeable outbreaks of the virus in the past among birds, pigs, bats, and several other animals. There is still research conducted on how the coronavirus evolved.

What are the symptoms of Coronavirus?

The initial symptoms of Covid-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. It is quite similar to other respiratory illnesses. People affected with covid-19 shall experience a range of symptoms along with body pain, nasal congestion, runny nose, shortness of breath, diarrhoea, and sore throat. The symptoms start to show within 2-14 days of contact with the virus. On the other hand, there are cases where the infected person does not show any symptoms but tends to spread the virus. People who have pre-existing health issues like diabetes and heart disease are more likely to develop a respiratory illness.

It is better late than ever, if in case you come across any of the above-mentioned symptoms, do not hesitate to seek medical help from the medical fraternity.

With all the information regarding the covid virus, we shall now check the variants of the coronavirus.

Types of Variants - Mutated Coronavirus in the past

The typical variants of the covid virus have been monitored carefully in the past. These changes have been monitored and analyzed closely. Here is the list of variants in the past.

WHO Label Pango Lineage
Alpha B.1.1.7 and Q Lineage
Beta B.1.351 and descendent lineages
Gamma P.1 and descendent lineages
Epsilon B.1.427 ,
Eta B.1.525
Iota B.1.526
Kappa B.1.617.1
N/A B.1.617.1
Zeta P.2
Mu B.1.621, B.1.621.1

The virus has been classified into different categories by the World Health Organization and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). The classification is briefed below:

  • A variant of Interest, when compared to the earlier forms of the virus, the characteristics had greater transmissibility, evading immunity, and severe other diseases.
  • A variant of Concern has been more infectious, causing a breakthrough in vaccinated people. This variant is likely to cause severe diseases and resist antiviral treatment. The common variants of this group are popularly known as Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta variants are classified under the Variant of Concern.
  • A variant of High Consequences, this variant of the virus does not offer any protection against the vaccine. There is no such variant currently that belongs to the variant of high consequences.

From the beginning of the Covid-19 Pandemic, the coronavirus has kept on mutating resulting in different variants. One of the arising variants from Pango Lineage B.1.617.2 from the variant of concern appeared to transmit very easily from one person to another. Delta is considered to be the most contagious virus from the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

The Delta variant became the dominant variant among mutated coronavirus in the past. It was more seen in the U.S, people who are travelling internationally are most likely to encounter it. The Delta variant is twice contagious as the previous variants. But the precautions remain the same, to avoid crowded places, maintain distance and wear masks.

The F.D.A has authorized all three vaccines for protection against the Delta variant. People should know about the vaccines and that they are effective enough to prevent the severe forms of the Covid-19 virus. The vaccines are not completely protective, but they help to reduce the risk of hospitalization and can prevent death.

While these are the past variants, the latest variants are heavily mutated. It is first identified in South Africa. The new variant has now spread to the neighbouring countries which include Botswana. Let us study the new variant in detail.

Types of Variants - Mutated Coronavirus in the present

WHO (World Health Organization) is now monitoring the new variant B.1.1.529 detected in South Africa, it is said to be the most heavily mutated strain to date. It is reportedly spread in the neighbouring country Botswana where people have been fully vaccinated. The new variant has been flagged red by the scientific community, as it has an alarming number of spikes that make the virus more resistant to vaccines, it has increased its transmissibility and severe covid-19 symptoms.

After the third wave that peaked in August, the cases are now increasing, there is a 48% increase in cases by November 21, 2021. It is reported to have received 227 million vaccines, and 3.9 million doses of vaccines have been given to the health workers.

B.1.1.529- The Omicron virus

B.1.1.529 has been referred to as “Omicron” and has dozens of mutations, it is raising fears among scientists and could have more transmissibility than the previous variant, Delta. It dominates all the infections to date. It has the power to avoid the protection provided by the vaccines. The government has put travel restrictions on people coming and leaving from Southern African countries.

The UK has suspended flights from six countries, which include South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, and Namibia. But within a few hours, countries like Italy, Japan, Taiwan, Israel, and Singapore have identified the new variant.

Currently WHO is working with its technical partners to understand and analyze the impact of the new variant. The vaccine remains critical for the dominating variant.

Precaution Against Omicron virus

WHO still recommends people to follow the same precautions as the previous variant, one has to maintain distance, one must avoid poorly ventilated places, keep your hands clean, and get fully vaccinated. WHO will continue to provide more information in the coming days about the new variant.

Mutations of Covid -19 Viruses- The past and the present- The Conclusion

About the first identified sequence, Wuhan-Hu1. It was the first-ever sequence identified and the virus had mutated predominantly. The mutation of the covid-19 virus in the past and the present have different characteristics. The mutation variants are influenced by several factors.

But the latest version is a heavily mutated variant so far. It is described as horrific by the scientist. The variant has been named Omicron by WHO. The scientific community has described it as the “very different” variant. The virus is said to have 50 mutations and comprises 30 of the spike protein. It targets the vaccines and is used to unlock the path to the human body cells.

But the concern arises now, as the vaccines developed were designed for the original variant that emerged in Wuhan, China. The vaccines taken may not be that effective to the newfound strain. Currently, we have a huge hole in regards to knowledge about the new variant, WHO has set up the committee to understand the new variant omicron and details will be posted soon. We still have left-out answers regarding the pandemic.