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The changes in coronavirus: It's mutations

12 July, 2021 Piyush

At the time of writing this article, the world has been battling an invisible demon for 605 arduous days. The point in the discussion is of the coronavirus outbreak, which has left the entire world paralyzed and left many economies crippling. Of all the ill effects people had thought of a pandemic, the covid-19 pandemic has presented them all on the table. The major of them all count up as:

  • Sudden Impact: The first and the most important of the factors how this virus has impacted the world is by making its appearance felt all of a sudden. The coronavirus pandemic came at a time when none of us were prepared for anything like that.
  • Ill-prepared health infrastructure: In most of the countries, the healthcare infrastructure was in such a condition that it could not handle the sudden impact and flooding of critical patients immediately and this has costed many countries the dear lives of their citizens.
  • Sudden responsive migration: Due to the sudden onset of the pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns, many migrant families were left struggling to reach back to their homes from the non-native places. Due to the unplanned and unregulated migration of people on such a large scale, the coronavirus got it easy to spread its legs across the globe.

And another thing worth mentioning is that the coronavirus is a smart virus, and has a tendency to mutate to different forms, given favourable conditions in the host body.

How does coronavirus survive?

The virus needs a host body to survive. The basic idea of the existence of coronavirus, talking in layman terms, is that it works by multiplying itself into thousands of copies after entering a host body, and spreads via tiny air droplets by the means of coughing and sneezing.

For a person, the trouble starts when they touch an infected surface carrying the coronavirus, and then contact their eye/nose/mouth. It is via one of these entry points that the virus enters your body and starts its play. The coronavirus has spikes on it’s surface through which it attaches itself to the receptors of the cells in our body. Once in through the mouth, the virus gets easy passage to the mucous membrane in our mouth and then moves down the respiratory tract.

Since our lungs have more ACE2 receptors, the coronavirus has more of a tendency to reach out to our lungs than anything else. Once attached to the receptors, the virus starts making its numerous copies and each of the copies does the exact same task as the parent virus.

On the lungs, the virus has a devastating impact. The virus directly impacts the alveoli (tiny air sacs on the lungs) and gives rise to a condition known as pneumonia. By this point, the immune system of the body would have already shown symptoms such as high fever, weakness, loss of taste and smell, fatigue, and nausea. Also, the immune system by this time has started its action of eradicating the copies of coronavirus with full of its might!

All of this for the survival of the coronavirus within the host body.

What is the meaning of mutation of coronavirus?

To understand mutation, we first need to get hold of what the structure of a virus is like.

Any and all viruses consisting of RNA as their base components undergo mutation. All of these viruses are made up of a bundle of RNA which is covered by a protein covering. Once the virus attaches itself to a receptor in your body (ACE2 receptor in case of coronavirus), it transfers its genetic data to your body cell and makes several copies that go off and infect other cells.

Now during this transfer process of RNA data from the virus to the body cells, many times there exist errors that hamper the exact data transfer to the cell. This error is what is termed a mutation scientifically. If and when such errors become advantageous to the virus and such mistakes are included in the virus replication and passage, they become a part of the normal virus genome. And this is how such mutated virus variants spread across the crowd and deceive the immunity of the human body.

Known mutations of the coronavirus

By the international community, corona virus’ variants have been classified into 2 classifications:

  • Variants of concern
  • Variants of interest

Variants of concern are the ones that have been found to be dangerous for the people at large, due to either their easy transmissibility or harmful impact on human immunity and health. The following variants have been found to be falling under the variants of concern classification for the coronavirus till now:

  • Alpha (B.1.1.7)
  • Delta (B.1.617.2)
  • Beta (B.1.351)
  • Gamma (P.1)

Variants of concern are the variants that still have to be thoroughly studied by the medical and scientific fraternity across the world and are generally considered to be less harmful and alarming than the variants of concern of the coronavirus. The following variants have been found to be falling under the variants of interest classification for the coronavirus till now:

  • Eta (B.1.525)
  • Iota (B.1.526)
  • Kappa (B.1.617.1)
  • Lambda (C.37)

While all the coronavirus pandemics still prevalent in the world, and we being aware of its functioning, it’s nothing but better to stay protected and immune to this deadly virus, for all of our lives matter!