A higher number of infections and the circulation of the new more contagious variants of coronavirus around the world have created an alarming situation.
In particular, new variants of coronavirus that emerged recently in the UK, South Africa, and Brazil could pose a threat to vaccination and could diminish the effectiveness of the existing vaccines.
These new variants of coronavirus have a startling number of changes in the virus’s spike protein, the part that fits into the receptor in human cells, allowing it to infect people.
As a result, there is a pressing need to pinpoint differences in transmissibility between these new versions and earlier versions of the coronavirus.
Recently, Dr. Amir Ali Abbasi, Professor, and Chairperson at the National Center for Bioinformatics, Quaid-i-Azam University, in collaboration with his Chinese partner Professor Dr. Dong-Qing Wei from Shanghai Jiao Tong University analyzed the biological mechanisms behind the higher infectivity and transmission of the emerging strains of coronavirus.
These researchers used multiple computational algorithms and disclosed that the South African and Brazilian variants are more lethal than the UK variant (N501Y).
The study suggests that mutations in the newly emerged variants of coronavirus have altered the binding affinity of the virus to human cells, create new inter-protein contacts, and thereby has increased the transmissibility and infectivity of the virus.
The study also pinpoints differences in transmissibility between these mutations and earlier versions of the virus.
Dr. Amir Ali Abbasi, who co-led the research said “the part of the virus that interacts with human cells is subjected to continues evolution since the first reports of patients with atypical pneumonia or COVID-19 in late December 2019”.
“These changes seem to give the virus a greater advantage or enhanced its ability to propagate and that appears to be what’s happening with the UK, Brazilian, and South Africa mutations” he further said.
Dr. Amir Ali Abbasi warned that coronavirus might have evolved enough to evade the Covid-19 vaccines that have been approved so far.
Professor Dong-Qing Wei who is the principal investigator of this study added that “computational biology and artificial intelligence technology offers a new hope that a cure to COVID-19 might be developed faster than ever before through mechanism-based drug discovery.
“Many targets for the design of drugs have been already identified, and studies are in progress to explore these potential targets” He further added.