New COVID-19 variant detected in Brazil can turn fatal – Are we safe?
In a recent development, the Ministry of Science and Technology’s National Laboratory for Scientific Computing (LNCC) said that a possible new variant of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), SARS-CoV-2, has been detected in several regions of Brazil. Also Read – COVID-19 Updates: New coronavirus variant detected in Punjab: Here's why you need to worry The laboratory has issued a warning and said that this latest variant contains a mutation that could “complicate the planning of new strategies to control Covid-19”. Also Read – COVID-19 reinfection: Fully vaccinated man tests positive for coronavirus; What does this mean to us?
Brazilian scientists discovered the new variant as the country’s healthcare system nears collapse due to a rise in cases generated by the P.1 strain that emerged in the northern Brazil’s state of Amazonas in November 2020, the Xinhua news agency reported. Also Read – COVID-19 spike in India: Country records biggest single-day jump, what are we heading towards? A study carried out in 39 municipalities of five Brazilian states “led to the identification of a possible new variant of SARS-CoV-2 originating from variant B.1.1.33 that had circulated in Brazil,” the laboratory said in a statement. The results of the study were reported in the international coronavirus genome database GISAID. “The growing need for effective genomic surveillance to be able to identify potential viral mutations early is clear, thus helping to improve current vaccines against Covid-19,” the laboratory said. This comes amid a sudden surge in the number of coronavirus cases in the nation. According to the reports, the South American nation reported a record 85,663 novel coronavirus cases and 2,216 deaths on March 12. On Saturday, Brazil reportedly surpassed India to become the second-worst coronavirus-hit country in the world. The reports added that the country had witnessed a total of 11,363,380 cases of infection and 275,105 deaths since it was hit by the COVID-19 virus. Now, the most important question that follows is – can the existing vaccines against the novel coronavirus — keep you safe? According to a new study, antibodies raised by some COVID-19 vaccines are less effective at neutralizing new, circulating variants of the novel coronavirus such as the ones first reported in the UK, South Africa, and Brazil. According to the scientists, including Alejandro Balazs from the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in the US, neutralizing antibodies work by binding tightly to the virus and blocking it from entering cells, thus preventing infection. They said this binding only happens when the antibody’s and the virus’ shapes are perfectly matched to each other “like a key in a lock.” If the shape of the virus changes where the antibody attaches to it — in this case, in the spike protein of the novel coronavirus — they said the antibody may no longer be able to recognize and neutralize the virus as well.