Scientists have warned that the Corona virus will continue to evolve as it spreads around the world, and there are now many new variables that global research teams are closely monitoring.
One of these, B.1.621, also known as mu, was Dubbed the latest kind of interest from the World Health Organization. Another, C.1.2, is a theme New search with headlines Explore how it behaves. Other variants will likely wait in the wings, but they have yet to be discovered.
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So why are these new variables important, what are their capabilities, and how much should Canadians care?
Currently, the highly contagious delta variant – which the World Health Organization considered a concern in May – dominates COVID-19 cases in Canada, where it makes up more than 90 percent of recent reported infections. According to federal data.
But this does not mean that other emerging variables do not require close monitoring.
“Looking at this virus, obviously we’re going to have new variants,” said Alison Kelvin, a virologist with the Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Organization (VIDO) at the University of Saskatchewan.
“What we need to do is be prepared to identify cases … as well as other variables that will inevitably begin to emerge around the world.”
Here’s what Canadians need to know:
What is a B.1.621 – or mu – variant?
B.1.621 is the latest interesting variant that, according to the World Health Organization, was given – and a catchy Greek alphabetic name, “mu” – on August 30.
“The mu variant has a constellation of mutations that suggest potential characteristics of immune escape,” reads the latest WHO Weekly Epidemiological Update.
This means that those with some level of immunity to previous strains, either through previous infection or vaccination, may be susceptible to infection from Mo – but this is only according to preliminary data and “needs to be confirmed by further studies,” the update continued.
The variant was first detected in Colombia in January, and since then, the country has seen hundreds of cases and the variant has also been reported in 39 other countries around the world.
Here in Canada, it hardly has much of an impact: Mo cases have been reported for weeks, but so far, the variant has made up no more than three percent of cases in any given week and recently totaled just 0.3 percent — although federal data since mid-July is still piling up and could change.
What is a C.1.2 variant?
The C.1.2 variable is not yet considered a variable of concern or concern by the WHO, but researchers are pushing the organization to monitor it more closely.
A team of South African scientists discovered the new variant, which was first observed in May and has since spread to seven other countries in Africa, Europe, Asia and Oceania, according to the Pre-print study that have not yet been peer-reviewed.
“It’s still not clear where this came from,” Dr. Zane Shagla, an infectious disease specialist at McMaster University in Hamilton, noted. “It was first identified in South Africa but people need to know that South Africa already has very good sequence networks and so it may not be the original.”
Richard Lessels, infectious disease specialist and one of the authors of the paper on C.1.2, He told Reuters the variant may have more immuno-avoiding properties than delta, based on the pattern of mutations, and that the results have been reported to the World Health Organization.
However, it is not yet known whether the variant is in fact more contagious, or better able to evade immunity provided by vaccines or previous coronavirus infections.
“These things need time to see,” he said, obsessed. “Delta is incredibly fit, incredibly malicious and takes its place [other strains] Strongly. We still haven’t seen suggestions for this yet [with C.1.2]. ”
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How worried are Canadians now?
Given that delta makes up the lion’s share of COVID-19 cases in Canada and there is still a lot we don’t know about mu or C.1.2 – concerns about emerging variables must be put into context.
It is important to continue to study and monitor the C.1.2 variant, Shaqla said, but that “there is no need to panic just yet.”
1.2, an increasing proportion of serial cases in different countries outside of South Africa, but none on a delta scale and it remains to be seen whether we will see a more global spread, Chagla said.
“It remains unclear whether this just means that there is a large number of local spreads among certain groups that appear to be overrepresented – or whether this is a legitimate growth pattern,” he added.
“We still don’t know, if you put things in the same group, whether delta would be more ferocious or not.”
Like so many other variables that have emerged over the course of the pandemic — including worrisome variables like alpha, beta, lambda, and now mu — delta can either be overtaken or “burn themselves out over time,” Shagla says.
“At the moment, it seems that there are not a large number of cases [C.1.2]Kelvin said. But now that we’ve identified this, monitoring centers around the world can begin to determine, are they seeing a number of these cases as well? ”
To see how often variable cases appear here, Public Health Canada is working with provinces and territories and the Canada COVID Genome Network (CanCOGen) to sequence a percentage of all positive COVID-19 test results.
Sequencing reveals the virus’s genetic code, which shows which variant was involved in a particular case of COVID-19, These results are reported every week.
Dr. Catalina Lopez Correa, chief scientific officer of Genome Canada and CEO of CanCOGen, said there was still “very little data” from the real world about the growing threat from the variant.
“The main message for Canada is that we are actively monitoring this alternative,” she said. “It has not yet been discovered here and we are also actively following all the data being published and shared around the world.”
Why are new variables important in the global fight against COVID-19?
New variables have emerged throughout the pandemic among populations with low vaccine coverage that have been hit hard by unchecked transmission of COVID-19 – including India, South America and Africa – and experts say this trend is likely to continue until more parts of the world are vaccinated.
“This is an incredibly big reminder – even if this is a false alarm – of what global justice for vaccines means,” Shagla said.
“A lot of us started seeing the delta wave in sub-Saharan Africa, and they were very worried about what could happen from that.”
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The region has low vaccination levels, poor quality health care systems, and a large population of immunocompromised individuals, with HIV infection rates in some countries as high as 15 to 20 percent of the adult population, says a concern.
“It was kind of a mixture of bad scenarios that led to the development of a variant … so I don’t think we can be surprised to see that something has come up,” he said.
“And we watch what happens in that sense, and we keep watching it.”
It is also clear that these variables do not remain the same.
Even if they do appear in one region of the world, cases later appear in another – which means that other countries, including Canada, are eventually affected again by this ever-evolving virus.