Both the alpha and beta SARS-CoV-2 either infect faster or gives anti-bodies a harder time to kill the virus.

New variants and their implications

SARS-CoV-2 mutants are spreading fast which prompts fears that current vaccines cannot defend against these viral types, reported SciTech Daily.

According to Bing Chen, Ph.D. at Boston Children's Hospital the Alpha or UK type, and Beta or South Africa have developed ways to sicken humans by different means. Beta type is may be more worrisome for many scientists since vaccines may not handle it.

COVID-19 shells have spikes that will pierce the cells and take over them. Hence, vaccines are developed to stop the spikes from piercing the cell wall. The study was posted on June 24 in Science, utilizing cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) to contrast the spikes from the original virus to its newer variants taking over host cells.

The study is vital to understand how the virus evolved the two methods to infect cells from one original type.

What is the difference?

Differing structures were found out in the study, showing Beta (South Africa type) could alter the contour of spike proteins anywhere on the virus shell. It makes the anti-bodies less likely to catch the spiked protein, or it allows easy evasion of the immune system.

This makes it a problem when inoculated already, altered spike protein in the alpha and beta variants challenges developed immunity.

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Chen said these mutations allow the virus to avoid antibodies developed from current vaccines. The Beta Type might be a problem for current vaccines because it can resist the anti-bodies. Developing a booster based on a new genetic sequence might protect from getting infected as well, cited Uncover Reality.

But some discoveries regarding the Beta type were found to make it less lethal than thought. A trade-off came when binding to ACE2 protein makes it less infectious by far.

Alpha type details

For another variant like this, it shows an altered composition of the proteins in the spike that allows faster attachment to ACE2 receptors, or very infections but cannot evade like the Beta. Trials are done to test vaccine efficacy showing this type is more manageable by far as anti-bodies can kill it.

He added that to be more threatening to human cells, any SARS-CoV-2 mutant has three qualities that are a nightmare scenario to consider. Faster spreading, avoiding anti-bodies generated by vaccines that cause more sickness and fatal complications. For now, we are secure as the two variants have not reached that point in their evolution.

Current data shows a combination with all the heightened characteristic is not on the horizon yet, and there's more time for studies.

Chen's team will investigate other SARS-CoV-2 variants that have been found, which is the Delta variant soon. It will take time to check what changes have been made in the latest mutation of the virus.

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