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Coronavirus mutated into 10 types: A2a mutant most effective in transmission, attacking human lung cells

The conclusions from the study are important as they will provide those conducting research on prospective vaccines with a specific target

April 28, 2020 / 07:44 PM IST
Representative image

Representative image

The novel coronavirus, officially named SARS-CoV-2, which was first reported from Wuhan in China in December 2019, has mutated into 10 different types, of which one A2a has become dominant and spread across geographical regions, The Times of India has reported.

The newspaper has cited a study conducted by Nidhan Biswas and Partha Majumdar from the National Institute of Biomedical Genomics in West Bengal. The study is going to be published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research, which is a medical journal published by ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research).

According to the study, the A2a mutation of the novel coronavirus is highly efficient in entering human lung cells in large numbers. The previous SARS-CoV, which had emerged in 2010 and infected over 8,000 and killed 800, was also efficient in attacking human lung cells, but it was not as adept as A2a.

Besides, A2a is efficient in transmission, and consequently, it has spread rapidly across the globe, the authors pointed out in their study.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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The ten different mutations evolved from the ancestral ‘O’ type in a span of four months. By March-end, the A2a overtook the other types across the world, and became the dominant type of SARS-CoV-2.

The conclusions from the study are important as they will provide those conducting research on prospective vaccines with a specific target.

For the study, Biswas and Majumdar used RNA sequences of 3,600 coronaviruses collected from 55 countries from December 2019 to April 6, 2020.

Read Also: Wuhan's L-strain may be behind Gujarat's high death rate

The initial observations pointed out that the coronavirus has evolved into newer types – O, A2, A2a, A3, B, B1, and so on – during its spread from Wuhan to the rest of China and other parts of the world. Currently, there are 11 types, including the ancestral ‘O’, which originated in Wuhan.

“To live, a virus must propagate by infecting other animals. A mutation usually disables the virus from transmitting itself. However, some mutations help a virus from transmitting more effectively and infect more persons. Such mutant viruses sometimes completely replace te original type of virus. The SARS-CoV-2 is doing just that,” Majumdar said.

COVID-19 has emerged as a pandemic because of A2a type’s ability to transmit easily Majumdar added.

Of the RNA sequences collected from infected persons in India, 47.5 percent showed A2a mutation of coronavirus. Interestingly, most people with A2a type did not have foreign travel history. However, for conclusive research on dominance of A2a type in India, more RNA sequences will be required, the researchers said.

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Moneycontrol News
first published: Apr 28, 2020 07:44 pm

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