It is common for viruses, including coronavirus, to constantly change and create new mutations. Each new variant of the virus then has a genome that contains one particular set of mutations. Some variants of coronavirus appear and disappear during a pandemic, others are more successful, persist and spread in the population.
Some mutations are easier to transmit than the original virus, and mutations that allow the virus to escape antibodies after vaccination. These mutations bring an evolutionary advantage to the virus and arise independently of each other.
Known variants of the virus:
This variant spreads easier and faster than other variants. In January 2021, experts in the United Kingdom reported that the variant may be associated with an increased risk of death compared to other variants of the virus, but further studies are needed to confirm this.
South African variant
There are more well-known so-called South African variants. The E484K variant, which is caused by a mutation in the spike protein, appears to have an impact on the immune response and possibly on the efficacy of the vaccine. This mutation helps the virus bypass the body's immune defenses. The South African variant can more effectively cause reinfections in people who have previously been infected with the original form of the virus. The vaccination efficiency against this variant is slightly lower, but experts say that vaccines can be changed and improved to better match the new variants within a few months.
This variant appeared in Brazil in early January 2021. It contains a set of other mutations that may affect its recognition by protective antibodies.
SARS-CoV-2 produces approximately one or two mutations per month, which is less than other viruses, including influenza. However, the more the SARS-CoV-2 virus circulates, the more potential for mutations can occur. Anything that can be done to suppress the spread of the virus will help reduce emerging new variants. Consistent and increased enforcement of strategies such as vaccination, physical distancing, the use of masks, hand hygiene, isolation and quarantine is essential to reduce the spread of the virus that causes covid-19 and to protect public health.
Detailed information on new variants of the virus and their effects can be found on the website of the National Institute of Public Health