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SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus Variant: What Are They And What Do We Know?

by | Mar 21, 2021 | Coronavirus | 0 comments

  1. Introduction
  2. Mutations and Variants
  3. Coronavirus Variant
  4. Symptoms and Demonstrations
  5. Pharmacies and Vaccines
  6. Identification of Variants
  7. How to protect yourself from Variants?
  8. Contact with Positive to Variants

The sources consulted for this article are the World Health Organization (WHO) official sites and the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).


In the context of the current pandemic, there is growing concern about the variations of the Coronavirus that are spreading everywhere.

The new Coronavirus – also known as 2019-nCoV or, more correctly, SARS-CoV-2 – is responsible for the respiratory syndrome known as COVID-19 and the pandemic that now affects all countries around the world.

Like any other virus, SARS-CoV-2 also has a mutation trend, giving rise to different variants, some of which worry more than others. So let’s see what they are and what we know about them. Before that, however, it may be useful to step back and understand why and what it means that the virus mutates.

Mutations and Variants

Why and what does it mean that the Virus Muta?

Let’s start by saying that mutation of the genome in viruses is a normal phenomenon, especially for those in RNA like SARS-CoV-2.

Changes to the new Coronavirus have been observed since the very first phase of the pandemic. However, while some of them do not directly and significantly impact the virus, others may give it characteristics that may improve its survival. Increased transmissibility increased pathogenicity with the induction of more severe disease (COVID-19 in the specific case of SARS-CoV-2). Or the possibility of “circumventing” immunity acquired from the individual following natural infection or any vaccine. As the virus “gets rich” in these characteristics, it’s done with variants that cause concern.

Coronavirus Variant

What are the SARS-CoV-2 variants that are worrying the most?

To date (February 2021), the new Coronavirus variants that raise the greatest concern are three. All are characterized by protein mutations known as a spike, which is the viral protein that allows the virus to “plug” into the cells of the host organism.

The three variants take their names from the place where they were first isolated and are:

English Variant

The English variant was first isolated in Britain and reported to the WHO by the UK in December 2020. The variant was nominated as SARS-CoV-2 VOC 202012/01 (Variant of Concern, the year 2020, month 12, variant 01) and B.1.1.7.

The data collected has shown that this variant is more transmissible and is expected to be more pathogenic. Studies are underway. So far, there has been no evidence of a possible negative effect on the vaccines available to date.

To explore:

English Variant SARS-CoV-2: why are you worried?

Brazilian Variant

The Brazilian variant – also known as P.1 – was first isolated in Brazil in December 2020. In early January 2021, its presence was also reported in Europe, including Italy. It is being closely monitored because it has greater transmissibility and because it seems to diminish the effectiveness of vaccines.

At the same time, studies are being carried out to determine whether this variant can cause more infections in subjects that have already tested COVID-19 and have already healed it.

South African Variant

The South African variant was first isolated in October 2020 in South Africa and announced to the WHO the country’s national authorities in December 2020. In South Africa, the variant has been named 501Y.V2 but is also known as B.1.351.

It was first reported in Europe in December 2020, after Christmas. And is being kept under control because it shows a higher degree of transmissibility and, again, seems to hurt the effectiveness of vaccines. It is not clear whether it could give rise to a more serious disease. Studies on this are still ongoing.

Symptoms and Demonstrations

How do you feel about the diseases caused by the New Coronavirus Variants?

At present, it appears that the diseases induced by the variants of SARS-CoV-2 show up with the same symptoms as the disease caused by the previous variants.

To explore:

Coronavirus 2019-nCoV: How to Recognize First Symptoms

Pharmacies and Vaccines

Are the available medicines and vaccines effective against the variants?

As mentioned above, the vaccines currently available seem to be effective on the English variant. Simultaneously, there are doubts about the Brazilian and South African variants on which studies are being carried out. In any case, vaccine manufacturers are looking into making further calls so that they can also be protected from new variants.

There is still no data available about the medicines used to date in the treatment of SARS-CoV-2-induced COVID-19. Therefore, it is not yet possible to determine whether they are also effective in controlling the disease and/or improving its symptoms when triggered by one of the variants mentioned above. Again, studies are still ongoing. However, it would appear from some preliminary articles that some monoclonal antibodies in the course of the study may not be effective about variants.

The situation regarding drugs and vaccines is therefore constantly evolving.

Identification of Variants

Can the Variants be Diagnosed using the currently used tests?

According to the information available so far, it appears that the diagnostic tests currently in use are also working correctly invariant detection. Antigenic tests may be used, but non-rapid (laboratory). Or fluorescent-readable rapid (i.e., read-with-equipment) antigen tests are required for any confirmation, ensuring high specificity and sensitivity.’

Of course, diagnostic tests cannot determine which variant has affected the patient. You need to run a specific test known as “sequencing,” which allows you to choose the exact genome of the virus. This type of test, which is highly specialized, is carried out only in specialized centers.

How to protect yourself from Variants?

Measures to prevent INFECTION HAVE REMAINED unchanged at present. Therefore, the use of masks, social distance, and hand hygiene must continue to be strictly adopted and respected in all circumstances.

Of course, it is also essential to respect all the indications and restrictions imposed by the current regulations.

Contact with Positive to Variants

What should you do about contacts with Positive to Variants in the New Coronavirus?

The Ministry of Health informs you that patient contacts with COVID-19 – suspected or confirmed – by variant infection must:

  • Considering the increased transmissibility of variants, a molecular test shall be carried out as soon as possible after identification and on the 14th day of the quarantine to allow further contact tracing.
  • DO NOT interrupt quarantine on day 10.
  • In the following week, the end of quarantine, they must strictly observe the physical spacing measures, wear the masks and, in the event of symptoms, isolate themselves and contact the attending doctor immediately.

Note: this kind of behavior must apply to the entire population.

The WHO also adds that the Department of Prevention must retrospectively search for contacts of a confirmed variant case – i.e., more than 48 hours and up to 14 days before the symptoms of the same confirmed case – or to carry out the buffer in case the case is asymptomatic, to identify the possible source of infection and further extend the tracing of contacts to any cases identified.

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