At some point in this global pandemic, you might wonder why covid has many variants over a short period of time. Let me discuss it in layman terms to make it clear. There’s ongoing scientific research on how the virus has got many variants and yet still trying to figure out the reason precisely.
Basically, like any RNA virus, SARS-CoV-2 has been mutating constantly since the beginning of the pandemic. It didn’t seem to matter until November 2020.Over time, the virus had mutated in a way that made it more transmissible, it was emerging all over the world. Suddenly, it seemed the virus was changing at an alarming rate.
SARS-CoV-2 hasn’t actually been mutating faster, though. Instead, by letting it spread around the world, we’ve just given it more and more opportunities to mutate as it replicates. The result is that after countless random mutations, there are signs that the virus is beginning to adapt to our natural defences. And because it’s completely normal for a virus to change over time, we shouldn’t expect it to stop. The only real way to stop those changes is to stop giving the virus so many opportunities. The faster we can stop the transmission, the lesser chance of the virus for mutation.
Scientists monitor all variants but may classify certain ones as Variants being monitored, Variants of interest, Variants of concern, and Variants of high consequence. Some variants spread more easily and quickly than other variants, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19. Even if a variant causes less severe disease in general, an increase in the overall number of cases could cause an increase in hospitalizations, put more strain on healthcare resources and potentially lead to more deaths.
The new variant’s high number of mutations: Omicron, as it has been dubbed by the World Health Organisation, has more than 30 changes to its spike protein. This protein allows the virus to infect and take over human cells, and is also the target of most vaccines. Spike protein changes in previous variants, such as Delta and Alpha, are thought to have made the virus more infectious or more likely to evade the immune system and vaccines. Omicrons is three times more likely to reinfect people.
One possibility for how a heavily mutated variant, such as Omicron, could have arisen is that the virus began circulating and mutating in an isolated group of people, where it would have had an opportunity to change dramatically compared with variants outside of that bubble. It could then have gotten introduced, with its numerous mutations, into the larger population, where it was able to travel into different groups and countries, Researcher says.
So, the only way we can stop this pandemic is to halt the spread of the infection. Stay safe, follow the guidelines and keep vaccinated. Protection will eventually stop its rapidly spreading tendency.
The World Health Organisation’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus echoed these sentiments on November 28: “The Omicron variant reflects the threat of prolonged vaccine injustice,” he wrote in a tweet. “The longer we take to deliver #VaccinEquity, the more we allow the #COVID19 virus to circulate, mutate and become potentially more dangerous.”
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