Coronavirus Part Two


(Image credit: CDC/Alissa Eckert)

Chloe Hefner, Writer

The coronavirus has been around for over a year now, spreading seemingly quickly from person to person.  Recently three cases of the same mutation have been individually found in the United Kingdom, Brazil, and South Africa. This mutation of COVID-19 has been presenting unusual behaviors, as all of the variants are seeming to become more common and have been spreading quicker than the first version of coronavirus. “Anytime when you have mutations that come up independently of each other in multiple places, it’s really a sign,” said Vineet Menachery, a coronavirus researcher in the medical branch of the University of Texas.

It’s still early in this discovery and there isn’t very much data on the case in Brazil yet.  Mutations were already common in the virus but they weren’t anything scientists were worrying about until people started sharing mutations.  This version of the virus has a ton of mutations.  The virus is so widespread that uncommon events were happening and they were happening more than once.  This mutation is highly unlikely to render immunity from previous infections or vaccines.  With vaccines currently available,  “you have more than enough antibody, and even if you cut that amount in half, you still have more than enough antibody to control the virus,” Menachery said.  “If the new variant reduces the efficacy … by 50 percent, you still have a lot of protection there.”  There are ongoing studies to figure out how much this mutation affects vaccines, but this suggests that vaccine makers need to update their shots especially if more mutations like this one appear throughout the years.  Updates happen every year to the flu shot and the current coronavirus vaccine can be updated surprisingly fast, in as little as six weeks. 

Scientists now question if the variants in Brazil and South Africa are spreading quicker because it has the ability to overcome previous immunities.  Both variants in South Africa and Brazil were found in areas with a high amount of covid cases.  In Manaus, Brazil nearly 76% of the population had already contracted covid by December.  Manus is experiencing another massive wave of coronavirus  In South Africa, the variant is becoming more dominant.  Scientists have come up with a possible explanation for this mutation: Someone could have contracted the virus and had the virus for an extended period of time without showing any symptoms and the virus could have adapted and mutated inside of that person.  This would explain why the virus got so many mutations at once, typically all these mutations would take years to evolve but this was estimated to take around a couple of months. Another possible reason is that a variant could emerge and then take traits from a chronic condition that the infected person has and mutate to make it better at binding to cells and transmitting faster.  This is the assumption for what happened in the United Kingdom case. It is also a possibility that this is what happened in Brazil also where there are already two cases of reinfection.  Vaccine makers are scrambling to adjust to the mutation while scientists are trying to figure out what created the mutation and as the virus continues to mutate.