New wave of Kovid-19 in Vietnam, is the new train responsible?
New wave of Kovid-19 in Vietnam, is the new train responsible?  |  Photo Credits: AP, File Image
Queensland : Amidst the increasing cases of coronavirus in Vietnam, we recently heard that a new form of coronavirus has been found in the country. This new variant was originally described as a hybrid form of British (now Alpha) and Indian (now Kappa B.1.617.1 and Delta B.1.617.2) viruses. But what exactly does this mean? And if we look at the science behind the behavior of viruses, is what we’re seeing really a hybrid?
What is a ‘hybrid’ or hybrid?
The scientific meaning for a hybrid variety in virology is ‘recombinant’. Recombination occurs when two strains infect a person at the same time and combine to form a new strain. This process is common in influenza, where it is often referred to as ‘antigenic shift’. The major concern with viral recombination is that this third strain will emerge faster with the strength of both strains, and you will get a strain that will spread more rapidly and multiply at the same rate.
Emerging evidence suggests that the coronavirus may undergo recombination, which may have led to the origin of SARS-CoV-2, the cause of COVID-19. There is some evidence that SARS-CoV-2 has undergone some recent recombination, with preliminary information suggesting this combination is likely between the alpha (B.1.1.7) and epsilon (B.1.429) variants.
Delta strain spreading in Vietnam?
It is important to note that these reports are preliminary and some of the science has not yet been reviewed. Therefore the role of recombination in the development of SARS-CoV-2 still needs to be confirmed. According to early reports from the World Health Organization (WHO), genetic sequencing is now showing that the strain circulating in Vietnam is a delta strain that has developed some additional mutations.
Scientifically and according to WHO, this means that it is not a ‘hybrid’ at all, rather, it is a mutated version of the delta version. The delta variant was originally found in India and has since spread across the world, including Australia. Early reports suggest it is more contagious and possibly more lethal than other types.
Key health officials, including Vietnam, have to be extremely vigilant. We do not yet know which additional mutations have been found in the delta variants found in Vietnam. But we have seen before, where mutations found in one variant lead to a different type of SARS-CoV-2 variant.
What we know and what we don’t know
Late last month, Vietnamese health officials reported that this so-called hybrid variant was much more dangerous and more contagious than other variants of the circulating virus. He said this was the reason for the increase in infections experienced in Vietnam during May. These initial reports were based on clinical observations. Whether this mutated version is more contagious and contributed to the current surge of infections in Vietnam is not yet known for certain.
When someone is diagnosed with COVID-19, it is not always easy to perform whole-genome sequencing on their viral sample. It is often an expensive and time-consuming process for public health officials, epidemiologists and virologists to understand and predict the pace of outbreaks.
and data analysis required
This means that not all countries will have the ability to rapidly provide whole-genome SARS-CoV-2 sequences. In such a situation, the exact details of which strain is active where will always be known after the number of cases of the disease increases. It is likely that we do not yet know whether this same altered delta strain is active in Vietnam. Vietnam has either not yet fully analyzed genomic data from sufficient patient samples, or has not yet made this information publicly available.
Additionally, we also do not know whether this mutated variant is more contagious or causes more severe COVID-19 than the delta version or the original SARS-CoV-2. To answer these questions, we will need more detailed genomic data and time to see what the current incidence of the disease is, as well as data from scientific and clinical studies involving people who are thus infected.
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