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What is the South African Covid variant?

Topics Covered: Issues related to health.

What is the South African Covid variant?


Context:

The WHO has identified three new variants of coronavirus originating in the UK, Brazil and now in South Africa.

What’s the concern?

  • Of the three, the latest South African variant known as 20H/501Y.V2 or B.1.351, is different from the one in Britain and appears to be more infectious than the original virus.
  • The South African variant carries a mutation called N501Y that appears to make it more contagious or easy to spread, a report in The New York Times said.
  • Also, the WHO has said this variant “is less susceptible to antibody neutralisation” than previous variants.

Why do viruses mutate?

A mutation just means a difference; a letter change in the genome.

  • Mutations in viruses are a natural part of evolution.
  • The pressure on the virus to evolve is increased by the fact that so many millions of people have now been infected.

In the case of SARS-CoV-2, which is an Ribonucleic acid (RNA) virus, a mutation means a change in the sequence in which its molecules are arranged.

  • A mutation in an RNA virus often happens when the virus makes a mistake while it is making copies of itself.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. What is Covid 19?
  2. What is mutation?
  3. What is mRNA?
  4. What is RT- PCR test?

Mains Link:

Discuss the concerns associated with mutations of Covid- 19 virus.

Sources: the Hindu.