The ongoing frightful circumstances of the pandemic seem to be exacerbating with time. Despite the mass distribution of vaccines in multiple countries, the COVID-19 virus is observed to be evolving and mutating into a more complicated and complex structure. Some of the vaccines are not even able to combat these evolving versions entirely. This has led to widespread concern among health workers globally.
- The Virus is Undergoing Mutation Continuously
Ever since the pandemic hit, the virus has been undergoing constant mutations and evolutions. This occurs when it enters the body cells and begins replicating. The incorrect copies of end up carrying the mutations and multiplying in other body cells after transmission. Occasional mutations result in making the virus more deadly like the one detected in March 2020 which enabled it to replicate faster and more in number after the infection. A similar change was observed in December 2020 where the B117 variant caused an even faster spread along with 17 collective mutations.
2. Variants, Not Strains
The new variations being reported every now and then are also mistook as strains. It is amiss to label them as strains because, by definition, strains are synonymous to significant changes in protein structure which are enough to distinguish it as a separate virus. However, the changes observed in covid-19 virus are not major enough to be constituted as a different strain. Hence, the new variants B1.351 of South Africa and P1 of Brazil are categorized as variants and not strains.
3. Chronic Infections and Immunity Leading to Evolution
Virologists and epidemiologists have discerned that the fast-paced evolution of covid-19 virus can be traced back to the bodies of people who have been infected with the virus for a long time, i.e., ones who have been chronically ill. The prolonged presence of virus in the body makes it resistant against the remedies. Moreover, higher immunity in increasing population is further making it more convenient for the virus to adapt to multiple remedial measures.
4. Unprecedented Technology
One of the main reasons for better control on the spread of this virus is attributed to the scientific advancements which have decoded the genetic sequence of the virus and have made targeted vaccines and medicines for its combat. This quick detection leads to governments and authorities responding fast to the changes and introducing new policies to check the spread.
5. Vaccine Evolution
To keep up with the ever-changing variants of the virus, vaccines need to be evolved as well. The variants of P1 and B1.351 need more effective versions of the vaccines being distributed. Booster shots are also under consideration to enhance immunity. Continual evolution of the vaccines that stand parallel to the virus evolution is needed for population safety.
Let’s hope these mutations don’t lead to another uncontrolled outbreak of COVID, since we’ve already had enough of those.