London, Dec 25: British epidemiologists found the new mutation in coronavirus when they were investigating the reason for the surge of cases in the southeast part of England despite the imposed restrictions that controlled the spread in other parts of the country.
The public health officials who were out searching the reason for the surge initially presumed that a superspreader event or negligent behavioral patterns like disregarding social distancing norms, illegal house parties etc, had caused the rapid rise of cases in the area, as per the Wall Street Journal.
It was on December 8 when the group of scientists, Covid-19 Genomics UK Consortium(COG-UK) that collects, monitors and researches on the virus discovered the new variant with 23 mutations, in a test of a patient from Kent, near the centre of outbreak in late September, that consequently led to the world isolating the UK. The same variant was also found in a sample tested in London a day after, WSJ reported. These new mutations were found to have increased the communicability of the virus.
While researchers have said that the virus has mutated numerous times since the inception of the spread in 2019, WSJ said the variant has caused global worries specifically because of the greater number of mutations that affected the code of the amino acid responsible for producing proteins constituting the virus.
The new variant can help the virus in infecting the people more efficiently as two of the mutations affect the spike protein of the virus that makes it easy to stick to the human cell wall and enter the body.
The mutation had caused global worries at a time when the vaccines are being rolled out for emergency use in many parts of the world as scientists say that the nature and number of mutations are unprecedented.
The British officials in recent weeks have been clandestinely looking for patient zero. They have been through the contacts of two people identified early carrying the variant, neither of whom was sick including others infected earlier. The hypothesis around patient zero is that the variant must have born out of its weak immune system. Compromised and deficient immune system is mostly the best place for the virus to evolve with high mutations as it is able to survive in that environment for a longer period of time, WSJ reported.
“In an ideal situation you would know who the index case was,” Sharon Peacock, microbiologist leading the genomics team at the University of Cambridge was quoted by WSJ “We don’t know at all, if this has arisen in a patient in the UK or if it has been introduced, we categorically can’t tell at the moment.”
The concerns about the new-found virus were made public on December 14 when the Health Secretary Matt Hancock informed the lawmakers that the new variant was accountable for 1000 cases in London and southeast England. Hancock had said, “Initial analysis suggests this variant is growing faster than the existing variants”.