The year 2020 has been a crisis-driven year due to the contagious coronavirus disease, which has taken the lives of millions of people. The disease-causing pandemic of COVID-19 was named after the year 2019, when it was initially reported for the first time in Wuhan, China. It has made the lives of each and every person come to a standstill. The coronavirus has gone through a journey of permutations and combinations to emerge into different variants, different strains affecting the lives of everyone around the world.
Here’s a timeline of the coronavirus evolution :
First emerged as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome – Coronavirus. (SARS-CoV) in 2003. It caused an epidemic outbreak in China, spread to 4 other countries but was contained successfully. Next came the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), which was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012. It caused a lower respiratory tract infection. Scientists believe that it originated from camels and majorly affected the Arabian peninsular region. Finally emerged the novel coronavirus, the infamous SARS-CoV 2. As it was first detected in Wuhan, China, in the year 2019, it is named Coronavirus Disease -2019 abbreviated as COVID-19. It belongs to the Order Nidovirales, Family Coronaviridae, Genus Betacoronavirus, and Subgenus Sarbecovirus.
Variants of SARS CoV2 :
On collecting samples of the first infected patients and finding the viral genomes, researchers compared them with the viral genomes of bat and pangolin coronavirus strains. They identified the ancestral type as A and the derived dominant type as B type. The derived type further mutated into B.1, which is the main culprit of the pandemic, the ancestor of the majority of the global variants of concern labeled as Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta by WHO in 2021. In the initial stage of the pandemic, there were very few mutant strains of SARS CoV2. As the infective rate increased, more and more strains started to arise, some more contagious than others.
- Alpha strain B.1.1.7 – also called the United Kingdom strain has two types, and it was first found in the United Kingdom.
- Beta strain B.1.351 first created an outbreak in South Africa in May 2020
- Gamma strain P.1 emerged in November 2020 in Brazil.
- Delta strain B.1.617.2 was first discovered in India in October 2020. In June 2021, reports of Delta variant with K417N appeared later termed as Delta plus variant.
Delta Variant versus Delta plus variant:
The delta variant, more known as the Indian variant, is described as one of the variants of concern by the WHO and belongs to the strain B.1.617.2. It has been the driving factor of the 2nd wave that emerged in India in October 2020. It was found to spread to 84 other countries and was much more contagious than the original strain. While it is still creating havoc on an international level, its other variation, the delta plus variant, has now stolen the attention of the health care heads worldwide. The delta plus variant, also called the AY.1 variant, is a blend of the delta variant ( Indian variant) and the beta variant ( Brazilian variant). Along with this, it contains mutations, including those of K417N, L452R and P871R.
For now, it is only found in some states of India.
- Transmissibility -The delta variant has high transmissibility rates, thereby leading to the destructive 2nd wave of the coronavirus in India. However, the delta plus variant is reported to be 60% more transmissible than the delta variant, making it more formidable than the delta variant.
- Symptoms –Symptoms of delta variant include gastrointestinal complaints (present mild cases or moderate cases), respiratory distress and severely impaired lung function that set it apart from previous variants of concerns, whereas the symptoms of delta plus variants are a combination of delta and beta variants -Long-lasting fever and persistent cough, lung involvement at initial stages, respiratory distress, pain in the chest, gastrointestinal signs like loss of appetite, stomach ache, diarrhoea, rashes and skin allergies, lacrimation, nausea and discoloration of fingers and toes. Some studies suggest that it could easily outperform the immune defense system and is known to bind strongly to the ACE-2 receptors on the lungs.
- Vaccine effectiveness -Covishield, Pfizer, Covaxin and Sputnik continue to provide effectiveness against the delta variant. Yet, there is no solid proof of the same for delta plus variants since it hasn’t dispersed as much as the delta variant.
While the scientists are working on getting more information about the delta plus variant, the government is trying hard to curb the spread of this contagion. However, irrespective of the status of the viruses, the health care community is striving hard to fight this pestilence which not only came insidiously and uninvited but has also become a part of our existence. The fight is still ongoing and will not stop anytime soon as the opponent is a virus that can change its shades and forms to ambush us, but we have only one weapon: prevention. So keep your masks on and your spirits high; let’s fight the pandemic together.