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  • In recent months, the Delta variant has been linked to a resurgence of COVID infections

  • and is on track to become the dominant variant worldwide

  • putting many countries, health officials, and medical experts on high alert.

  • There's been a lot of potential variants of concern that have sprouted up around the world.

  • And a lot of this is due to the fact that viruses mutate, that's what they do.

  • But the big question is: Are these mutations resulting in the virus being more problematic?

  • By now, you've probably heard about the Delta variant, but for the sake of getting us all on the same page, a little recap:

  • The COVID pandemic is caused by a virus called SARS-CoV-2, which is constantly changing as it replicates and spreads.

  • These changes, or mutations, in the virus's genetic code result in new variants of the virus.

  • Most of these have been found to either be weaker or benign versions of the original strain,

  • meaning that the mutations didn't cause the virus to be more harmful in any way,

  • but a handful of variants carry mutations that are associated with increased transmissibility and more severe cases.

  • And those are the variants that experts are keeping close tabs on.

  • So far, four of these have been identified asvariants of concernby the World Health Organization: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta,

  • which is the most recent addition to the list.

  • Together, these variants are shown to be either more contagious, more deadly, or more resistant to current treatments.

  • But of the four, Delta is especially concerning.

  • According to the WHO, it's thefastest and fittestvariant yet.

  • Recent work out of Imperial College London suggests that it's actually up to 60% more transmissible than the Alpha variant

  • which was already 50% more transmissible than the original strain

  • and many scientists expect Delta will soon replace Alpha as the dominant variant worldwide.

  • We're already feeling the effects, particularly with rates of infection steadily rising amongst unvaccinated populations.

  • Delta is also sometimes referred to as thedouble mutant.

  • This somewhat sinister moniker is based on the fact that two important mutations can be found in the variant's spike protein.

  • That's the protein on the virus's surface that allows it to gain entry into our cells.

  • But there are these 11 other mutations, and we are systematically studying these mutations in isolation to try to get a better handle of...

  • are these other mutations playing a role? And what role are they playing in terms of increased transmissibility that we're seeng with this Delta variant?

  • Fortunately, past work by Dr. Krogan's team to study other variants is helping them better understand the mutations in Delta.

  • For the last year and a half, we've been...looking at how the host responds to the virus.

  • With respect to the Delta variant, compared to the other variants, there's about the same number of mutations, but they're more spread out in the genome.

  • In that way, maybe ultimately, more human proteins in our cells are being manipulated in adverse ways compared to earlier lineage viruses.

  • That's one hypothesis. But at the end of the day, we have to wait to see what the data looks like, and then go from there.

  • Questions abound, including whether the Delta variant impacts our health in different ways.

  • There's been talk of it showing slightly different symptomsones typically associated with the common cold: runny nose, sore throat, headache...

  • but there's not enough data to confirm this just yet.

  • As we wait for answers, the global pandemic response is on track to remain fundamentally the same: use all the available tools to combat the outbreak,

  • which includes completing your vaccine course.

  • That is, if it's available to youin some countries, there are still no vaccines available at all.

  • If you don't have the knowledge, then fear comes. So at the present time, I think you have to take a deep breath,

  • use the preventative measures we have in place, i.e. the vaccinations, and support the scientists doing the work and wait for the scientists to collect the data,

  • so that we can be in a better mindset going forward as new variants come along.

  • It's important to keep in mind that vaccines such as the ones developed by Moderna and Pfizer remain extremely effective

  • against severe disease caused by SARS-CoV-2— variants and all.

  • And early results investigating their protection against the Delta variant specifically are encouraging:

  • One UK study found Pfizer to be 88% effective against symptomatic disease caused by the Delta variant,

  • while Moderna also found a “modest reductionin neutralizing antibodies when their vaccine confronted the variant.

  • These variants are providing us with a very valuable lesson and right now the lesson is to get vaccinated as quickly as possible.

  • While the coronavirus is a stand-out virus in many ways, it follows many of the same habits of other viruses.

  • Namely, that it mutates.

  • We've covered mutation on the channel before, so if you want to dive into the science of how that (very natural, normal) process works,

  • check the video out here.

  • Make sure to subscribe to Seeker for more COVID coverage, and as always, thanks so much for watching.

  • I'll see you next time.

In recent months, the Delta variant has been linked to a resurgence of COVID infections

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What You Need To Know About the COVID-19 Delta Variant

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    Summer posted on 2021/07/21
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