Amid cases of new variants of mutated SARS-CoV-2 emerging in India, it has become important to understand how the symptoms of different new variants vary from the original one.
According to new studies, the UK variant or the Kent variant — B.1.1.7 — spreads more easily and quickly than other variants.
The UK-based New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) recently reported that the Kent variant may be up to 70 per cent more deadly than previous strains.
Health experts have cited that those who test positive for the variant are more likely to report persistent cough, tiredness, muscle aches, sore throat and fever compared to those who have the original strain.
In South Africa, another variant called B.1.351 emerged independently of B.1.1.7.
Originally detected in early October 2020, B.1.351 shares some mutations with B.1.1.7. Cases caused by this variant were reported in the US at the end of January 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Vaccine makers Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech have already announced that they are working to modify their vaccines — and possibly to create booster shots — to better protect against the South African variant.
A variant called P.1 emerged that was first identified in travellers from Brazil, who were tested during routine screening at an airport in Japan, in early January.
This variant contains a set of additional mutations that may affect its ability to be recognised by antibodies.
According to various reports, the three variants carry the same genetic mutation – E484K – that allows it to evade the immune defences in the body, leading to infection. However, the mutated variants are comparatively new and under radar by various health experts and scientists, so, it may take a while for us to know the exact symptoms of these variants.
"First of all, viruses do have a tendency to mutate, all we have to do is to ensure safety and required precautions to reduce the risk," Gitali Bhagawati, Consultant and Head, Department of Microbiology and Infection Control, Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital in New Delhi, told IANS.
"Secondly, there is a factor called virulence, which means the ability of a microbial strain to cause disease. It is unknown in South African and Brazilian mutant strains," Bhagawati added.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has found a total of 192 Covid-19 cases of the new variants of mutated SARS-CoV-2 in the last two months, including four from the variant emerging in South Africa and one from the Brazilian variant.
ICMR Director General, Balram Bhargava, however, noted that no mortality has been reported so far in the cases that contracted the UK variant as well as those who are infected by the variants from South Africa and Brazil.