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Salty Dog

England’s new strain of SARS-CoV-2: what we know

One big question is what this variant means for vaccines: will they still be effective?

Ewan Birney

What do we know about the new COVID strain? Like all viruses, SARS-CoV-2 changes. Like a manuscript that is being endlessly copied, letter by letter, it accumulates typos — changes in its genetic code. Compared with other viruses, this one changes at quite a slow rate.

But we have seen a new version of the virus’s genetic code — its core manuscript — emerge in London and South East England, and it has some interesting properties.

Firstly, it has accumulated quite a number of changes in the relatively recent past. This points to an interesting history for this strain and also means its biology — and the way it behaves in our bodies — could have changed too.

Secondly, it is growing in the frequency at which we see it in infected people. That could be due to chance — some quirk in restrictions which means it is growing, or it could be that it is displacing other lineages of the virus. It’s something that is very hard to know for sure. This study is called phylodynamics and phylogeography, and this virus is being so intensively studied and tracked that we are seeing ‘recurrent but real’ mutations a fair bit, which makes this analysis more complex. Nevertheless colleagues such as Andrew Rambaut, Nick Goldman and Emma Hodcroft can untangle this. They and other scientists are pretty sure this increase is a property of the virus, not simply that this variant was in the right place and right time.

What don’t we know?

We don’t (yet) know if this change in biology changes other aspects, in particular disease progression. Given the numbers of cases in the South East, and that hospitalization rates do not seem to have changed massively, there’s unlikely to be a huge difference. But this variant could still be different in a host of ways. Those could include how it transmits — it might affect different age ranges more or less — or it could cause clinical progression of the disease to differ. Researchers will be looking very carefully at this.

The other big question is what this variant means for vaccines: will they still be effective? It’s worth stressing that there are thousands of variants of this virus — we are looking at just one of them. Overall the changes we have seen are still small. The fact that all three successful vaccines are tested in an environment of mixtures of many different strains and they have high efficacy rates is a reassuring place to be; but this deserves more attention.

It’s also worth stressing that although the ‘business end’ of the immune system is producing B-cell antibodies — a sort of guided missile that latches onto viruses, prevents viral action and triggers their destruction by macrophages (Pac-Man-like immune cells) there are also T cells.

T cells come in two types. One is a sort of ‘public health of cells’ check. These ones regularly knock on the doors of cells, looking to see if there’s anything unusual about them. If something dodgy is found, the cells are triggered to commit suicide. The other is a ‘command-and-control’ type. These T cells knock on the door of B cells and effectively say, ‘please show me what you’ve caught using your antibodies’ using a similar mechanism to the ‘public health’ T cells. If these cells find anything, rather than triggering the suicide switch they say: ‘permission granted to replicate like crazy and get those bastards’.

The good thing about T-cell immunity is that it works off fragments of viral proteins, not the whole thing. That means any one mutation can at most impact one fragment and the immune response to it.

When we are looking at immune response, it is easier to measure the B-cell response (the presence of antibodies — those guided missiles) but in fact the T-cell response is just as important and is less sensitive to the precise overall configuration of the virus. (If you are thinking how smart this system sounds, you’re right — the immune system is one of the jewels of mammalian evolution.)

The COVID vaccines we have developed stimulate both B and T-cell immunity, so there’s good reason to think that they will protect us against a variety of SARS-CoV-2 strains, this one included. Of course, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t check.

But in terms of NPIs — non-pharmaceutical interventions like the tier restrictions and Track and Trace — England will have to up its game, as most other governments likely will too: we need more effective interventions to reduce transmission. The good thing is that we have a surveillance system keeping watch for and tracking new strains across the UK at the detailed ‘letter by letter’ level. Many other European countries do too. With the sheer number of COVID cases worldwide, this is unlikely to be the first time the virus has mutated to be more infectious — it might just be the first time we’ve detected that it has done so.

https://spectator.us/england-strain-sars-cov-2-know/

 

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2 vids - 2nd more informative

What To Know About New Covid Strain Spreading In U.K. | All In | MSNBC & UK Coronavirus Mutation | A Doctor Explains

 

Edited by lamoe
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to_dave007

If true.. this may significantly change the next few years.

Russia is developing world’s first Covid-19 antidote, preclinical studies show drug effectiveness of more than 99%

Russia's Federal Medical and Biological Agency (FMBA) has announced the development of a drug to fight against Covid-19, which would become the world's first direct-acting antiviral antidote if clinical trials are successful.
According to Veronika Skvortsova, the head of FMBA, studies thus far have shown it is more than 99% effective.

“This is the first etiotropic drug that directly affects the virus. In fact, this is an antidote for coronavirus infection,” she informed Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin on Wednesday, noting that preclinical studies have been completed, which have shown the remedy to be “completely safe” and “highly efficient.”

Etiotropic means that the treatment is directed against the cause of a disease.

Director of Soros-funded HRW slammed for accusing Hungary of ‘scoring political points’ with imports of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine
Skvortsova told the prime minister that the FMBA is ready to apply for permission for further testing, which they hope to get before the New Year.

“If clinical trials confirm the effectiveness of this drug, it will be the first safe, effective, direct-acting antiviral drug that has no analogs in the world,” she explained.

The FMBA is also working on a separate drug for the treatment of the most complex coronavirus cases, which suppresses and prevents a physiological reaction called ‘hypercytokinemia’. Also known as a ‘cytokine storm’, it is an immune response that leads to body tissue damage, and is thought by some to be causing Covid-19 deaths.

In May, the Russian Ministry of Health approved an anti-coronavirus drug called ‘Avifavir’, a Favipiravir-based treatment that has been used in Japan since 2014 against severe forms of influenza. The medication is being produced domestically.

If effective, the antidote won't be Russia's only breakthrough during the Covid-19 crisis. Earlier this year, Russia became the first country to announce the registration of a coronavirus vaccine named Sputnik V. After trials, it was revealed to be 95 percent effective in producing antibodies after 40 days. Earlier this month, Putin ordered the start of mass vaccination, with it eventually beginning in Moscow on December 5.

https://www.rt.com/russia/511116-world-first-covid19-antidote/

 

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If this virus is mutable to a significant degree, by the start of flu season later this year (2021) any antidote may not  be ineffective against Covid 2021.
 

Quote

 

This statement is retracted due to inability to locate source link.

Some of the latest mutations appear to be extremely resistant to the meds available now.

 

 

Edited by lamoe
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BossHog

Tolstoy, Bulgakov, Dostoyesky etc.

Good to see the Russians still writing quality fiction.

Not sure who's gonna buy this fable but it's worth a shot.

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15 hours ago, lamoe said:

Some of the latest mutations appear to be extremely resistant to the meds available now

I havent seen this but i've not been able to keep up recently.  Have some citations to help me reduce my search times?

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Dafey

Well maybe Dr. Moe has an inside track

 

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4 hours ago, Dafey said:

Well maybe Dr. Moe has an inside track

 

Since I can't locate the article for verification (removed?) I will retract the statement and go with the following instead.

The doctor dosen't have an inside track - just being realistic.

I recall all the misinformation in January and months afterward from W.H.O.  So of course they must be right that the latest mutation  won't be resistant. Let's hope so

Quote

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/12/21/world/science-health-world/coronavirus-mutation-explainer/

Scientists initially thought the new coronavirus was stable and unlikely to escape vaccine-induced immune response, said Dr. Deepti Gurdasani, a clinical public health researcher at Queen Mary University of London.

“But it’s become very clear over the last several months that mutations can occur,” she said. “As selection pressure increases with mass vaccination, I think these mutants will become more common.”

Quote

https://www.govtech.com/em/safety/Coronavirus-Not-Likely-to-Become-a-big-Problem-for-US-Expert-says.html

Coronavirus Not Likely to Become a Big Problem for U.S., January 28, 2020

 

Quote

https://www.washingtonpost.com/

There is no evidence that the mutations seen so far could help the virus evade vaccines or treatments now in development, but genetic analysis of circulating strains suggests that partially-resistant variants can emerge and spread among humans.

Quote

COVID-19 vaccine will 'very likely' work on UK mutation, Fauci says ...

https://www.cnet.com/.../covid-19-vaccine-will-very-likely-work-on-uk- mutation-fauci-says-as-california-reports-case/

 

Quote

https://edition.cnn.com/2020/12/20/health/walter-reed-covid-19-variant/index.html

(CNN)Scientists at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research expect to know in the next few days if there's a concern that the coronavirus vaccines might not work against a mutated variant of the virus that's rapidly spreading in parts of England, according to the institute's top vaccine researcher.


 

Quote

https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/12/29/covid-19-mutations-minks-denmark-britain-vaccine-efficacy/

Will Virus Mutations Threaten COVID-19 Vaccines?

We don't yet know whether new variants of the coronavirus may impede vaccines’ efficacy. But they shouldn’t change anything about our approach to public health.

 

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12 hours ago, lamoe said:

The doctor dosen't have an inside track - just being realistic.

There be a good sized difference between spouting an opinion and claiming a fact.  In most cases there is a chance a microbe could through genetic variability become resistant to a current treatment.  Happens often of course.

Your statement "...appear to be extremely resistant..."  threw me a bit as i'm not aware of any findings claiming any new formed resistance.  Made me think something new had been found.  

not that some new resistance wont form, heck, we may be forcing covid along an evolutionary path that allows it to kill us all, but it aint happened yet and i wouldnt be willing to give up whatever credibility i have left in my own mind by claiming it has already happened.

now that i think about though i hereby reserve the right to say i told you so should it happen.

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13 hours ago, East Saxon said:

Hacked from the UK team who have just announced one?

Not sure what you are referring to.  A new antidote, or a covid strain resistant to the vaccines? 

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Irenicus
7 hours ago, BossHog said:

Tolstoy, Bulgakov, Dostoyesky etc.

I lived on the same dirt road in Cavendish, Vermont as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.  I had read Day in the Life and Gulag Archipelago before seeing him.  Never talked to him, but we'd wave when I drove by him when he was walking his dog.  Never has a Russian looked more Russian-er - huge crazy beard and all. 

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