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What Do We Know about the B.1.1.7 New Coronavirus Variant?

Source:Iris Liang Time:2020-12-28 15:48:52

Recently, British scientists discovered a variant of the new coronavirus called B.1.1.7, which caused an uproar in the world. According to an article in Science magazine, the transmission capacity of the variant virus is about 70% higher than that of the original strain, and more than 60% of the recent cases of new crown infection in London are from the variant virus.

In response, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced stricter blockade measures. As soon as the news came out, more than 300,000 British people chose to flee, and many countries also imposed travel restrictions on the United Kingdom.

What do we know about the B.1.1.7 new coronavirus variant? The major media have recently written articles to interpret the information released by scientists.

Is it a new super virus?

No, this is just one of many variants that have emerged as the new coronavirus spreads around the world.

"Science" magazine stated that mutations occur when the virus replicates. When the researchers observed the genome of the B.1.1.7 variant virus, they were shocked by the large number of mutations at 17 sites.

Usually, the new coronavirus accumulates mutations at a rate of 1 to 2 mutations per month, which means that many viral genomes measured now are about 20 sites different from the earliest viral genomes measured in January, but B.1.1.7 variants Viruses have a large number of site mutations almost at the same time, and viruses have evolved so fast that they have never been seen before.

Andrew Lambert, a molecular evolutionary biologist at the University of Edinburgh, said: "Now everyone is working hard to clarify the characteristics of these viral mutations in experiments. There are still too many unknowns."

Is it more contagious than other viruses?

According to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the B.1.1.7 variant virus was first discovered in September. By November, about a quarter of the new crown infection cases in London were related to the variant virus. In mid-December, this The figure is close to two thirds.

Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London, estimates that compared with other variants in the UK, the transmission rate of this variant has increased by 50% to 70%. Usually, children are relatively less likely to be infected with the new crown virus, but, according to Wendy Barclay, a virologist at Imperial College London, the B.1.1.7 variant virus may make children as vulnerable as adults.

Some scientists also believe that the widespread spread of the mutant virus may only be accidental. For example, a variant might start in a crowded city, where the virus usually spreads easily. In order to confirm whether the B.1.1.7 variant virus is truly more infectious, researchers are closely observing how it infects cells.

Miguel Chevik, an infectious disease expert at the University of St. Andrews School of Medicine, said on Twitter: “According to what we know, precautionary measures such as keeping social distance, wearing a mask, and washing hands frequently are also effective in fighting the mutant virus.”

Will it cause more serious diseases?

According to the New York Times, there is currently insufficient evidence to show that the B.1.1.7 variant virus will cause more serious diseases, but scientists believe that this possibility has not been ruled out.

In South Africa, another lineage of the new coronavirus has a special mutation that also exists in the B.1.1.7 variant virus. The variant virus found in South Africa is spreading rapidly in the local coastal areas. Doctors found that people infected with the virus carry a higher amount of the virus, which also causes more severe symptoms.

John Enkengasson, director of the African Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said that there is evidence that the virus variants found in South Africa may be causing serious diseases in young people and other healthy people of age. "This phenomenon is worrying, but we do Need more data to confirm".

Where did the unusual mutation come from?

This is a hotly debated issue. One possibility is that the B.1.1.7 variant virus has acquired a series of new mutations in a special host.

In a typical case, people will not have symptoms until a few days after being infected with the new coronavirus. When the immune system is defending, the amount of the virus in the body will decrease. Unless the patient has severe symptoms, under normal circumstances, the virus will be completely cleared within a few weeks.

But sometimes people with weakened immune systems will continue to be infected by the virus. In them, the virus can be active for several months. Case studies of these immunodeficiency patients have shown that the virus will accumulate a large number of mutations when it replicates in their body for a long time.

The researchers also proposed that the virus can mutate, or it may be driven by the drugs taken by the patient, and some variants may be resistant to drugs such as monoclonal antibodies. Other scientists have suggested that the virus may be transmitted through animal groups, such as mink, to acquire new mutations. As more and more animal infections are discovered, "animal hosts" have become the focus of attention.

Will the mutated virus invalidate the vaccine?

Most experts believe that the mutated virus will not have a major impact on the vaccine, although this possibility is not ruled out.

The New York Times pointed out that the first two vaccines currently in use in the United States both guide the immune system to produce antibodies against proteins called spikes on the surface of the virus, thereby generating immunity to the new coronavirus. This spike protein attaches to the cell and opens a channel inside the cell. The antibody produced by the vaccine stays on the top of the spike so that the virus cannot enter the cell.

Every mutation of the new coronavirus may change the shape of the spike protein, making it more difficult for antibodies to catch them. The mutation of B.1.1.7 includes eight spike genes, but the immune system can produce a series of antibodies against a single virus protein, so that the virus will not easily escape.

U.S. vaccine science consultant Moncef Sloy said that the current new variants are unlikely to affect the efficacy of the vaccine, but at a certain moment a certain virus variant may invalidate the vaccine. He said that the probability of this situation is very low, but we must remain vigilant.

But virologist Christian Anderson believes that if the B.1.1.7 variant virus evolves to avoid the immune system of immunodeficiency patients, then this adaptability may help it avoid vaccine attacks, and the vaccine will not fail, but it may not So effective again. "We don't know the result yet, but we will know soon." Dr. Anderson said.

Has mutant virus appeared in other countries?

"Science" magazine stated that the B.1.1.7 variant virus may have spread widely around the world.

The Minister of Health of the Netherlands said that researchers had found this mutant virus in a sample of a Dutch patient collected in early December. They will find out how the patient was infected and whether there are still related cases.

Nextstrain, an organization that has been monitoring the genetic code of virus samples around the world, has shown that this variant virus has also appeared in Denmark and Australia, and the cases are all from the United Kingdom.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement that due to frequent personnel exchanges between the United Kingdom and the United States, the B.1.1.7 variant virus is very likely to have spread widely in the United States.

William Hanach, an epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health, said that this mutant virus strain may already exist in other countries. The reason why the UK became the first country to discover this virus is because the UK currently has the most advanced virus in the world. The new coronavirus genome monitoring system in China, and many countries have not yet carried out such sequencing work. There is still a long way to go in fighting the epidemic, especially in winter when respiratory diseases are high. Preventive measures still need to be done well and cannot be taken lightly. China's Spring Festival is coming soon, and it will soon face pressure from the Spring Festival. Although the environment is safe, SEKO Machinery will take preventive measures after the Spring Festival holiday to ensure normal production and operation activities and punctual delivery. Reliability has always been our pursuit. Just like our stainless steel welded pipe inner weld rolling and leveling machine, we continue to provide our customers with a stable and smooth inner pipe wall, and bring higher product added value to customers' products.

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Iris Liang
SEKO Machinery & Technology Co., Ltd
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