The virus expert asks not to panic for the new version of COVID-19 | News from El Salvador

Six strains of SARS-CoV-2 have been identified in the country, but the most common and infectious is the D614G mutation. Dr. Carlos Ortega recommends that the population take biosecurity measures to minimize the impact of some variants of the virus.

How concerned should the new version of SARS-VOC-2 be? What does changing the virus mean?

The first thing the virus expert, Dr. Carlos Ortega, warns is that the virus variant identified in the United Kingdom is more contagious, but less lethal, and is still being studied.

He adds that the SARS-VOC-2 variation was discovered six months ago; the first was in Brazil in April; in the United States in June and Austria in July.

“This was discovered a long time ago, but it did not have an impact in those countries (…) It is probably not a mutation, but rather other mutations; and this may have a different characteristic, ”explains Ortega, who is a professor of communicable diseases in the Department of Microbiology and head of the virology department at the Faculty of Medicine, University of El Salvador.

SARS-Cov-2 moves more slowly than the flu virus

The rate of SARS-CoV-2 mutation is significantly lower than that of influenza.

The mutation is a change or variation of the virus each time it reproduces.

SARS-CoV-2 tends to somewhat correct the mistakes it makes when replicating.

In contrast, the influenza virus does not correct its viral genome.

This is why it is said that SARS-CoV-2 does not move at the speed of the flu virus.

SARS-CoV-2 moves more slowly and is therefore said to be more stable “If it moved with the speed of the flu … It is likely that (the virus) would have already disappeared or moved in an extremely virulence; it is more stable and, in a way, offers a better chance that a vaccine will be more effective against SARS-CoV-2 than against the flu virus, ”said Carlos Ortega

The expert warns that it is important to take action because the UK version has not circulated in the country; here if they identified the current circulation of six strains of SARS-CoV2, thanks to molecular surveillance performed by the university team.

“One of the mutations that was found (in El Salvador) and that gave a lot to talk about, was D614G, which is the one that has predominated in many countries.”

In January, the UES Department of Microbiology will conduct another study to identify circulating variants of COVID-19.

“Molecular surveillance is done at the university. We will make another batch in January and hope that it is not there either (the UK version), but if it is detected in time, there will be more evidence of its behavior. You have to try to keep up the pace, “said Dr. Ortega.

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In countries such as Costa Rica, the United States and Europe, the installed technical capacity and economic resources they have allow them to conduct a sequential study (to identify COVID-19 variants) each week.

UES tries to do the study once a week or every month.

Epidemiological surveillance and molecular surveillance are important to be aware of these changes and mutations that may have not only SARS-VOC-2, but also the influenza virus, and to take the necessary measures long in advance. Probably if you didn’t have all the technology you have today, everything that happened would be more discouraging, “says Ortega, referring to the progress made in one year to learn about SARS-VOC-2.

Why does the alarm go off before the new version of the virus?

According to the virus expert, speculation and the lack of a firm study to indicate the behavior of the variant is what keeps the population anxious.

Ortega reiterates that studies of the UK variant indicate that it is more communicable, but has not been shown to have greater virulence or a serious impact on the disease.

“Probably more patients are observed, because it is more transmissible, logically there will be more infected population and more patients. Logically, the curve (contagions) will increase “, he explains.

As a result, the number of hospitalizations will be higher, as the virus variant generates more cases.

“It is important for epidemiological and molecular surveillance to be aware of these changes and mutations that may affect not only SARS-VOC-2 but also the influenza virus and to take the necessary measures well in advance.”

Carlos Ortega, Head of the virology department of the Faculty of Medicine of UES

“At this time, no variation was found in the characteristics of these patients compared to those with other variants. This is so that the population is calm, so that no anxiety is generated that something worse is coming; of course, you have to wait for the studies “, he adds.

Studies on the UK variant detail that its characteristic is that it is more adept at binding to the receptor.

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“There are studies completed in vitro in experimental animals, which show that it is more transmissible and infectious. The mutation occurred in the spike protein, which is what the virus uses to bind to the ACE2 protein (enzymes found in higher concentrations in people with cardiovascular disease or impaired health), ”explains Ortega.

The expert explains that the PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test to detect the virus remains effective, despite the mutations of the virus, because it detects and analyzes in the virus not only its peak proteins, but also targets various genes.

The spike protein in the virus you are referring to is the crown that surrounds the virus. And in this area is the change or mutation.

That tip or crown acts as the key that allows it to adhere to human cells and multiply.

“Mutations fall into the peak protein that is the target of some diagnostic tests, thank God that the existing diagnostic tests are not only directed at the target, others are directed at the N gene (…) It is likely that a single change will not affect the test diagnostic, although it can, ”he explains.

Ortega adds that this new variant of the virus does not affect the effectiveness of vaccines either.

“First of all, because it is not a new variant and had already been considered, the variant has been circulating in the world for more than 6 months,” he points out.

The university professor considers that “the impact that situations like the ones that happen in England can have depends on the observance of biosecurity measures, as long as they are fulfilled, they are extreme and the population respects what corresponds to it, in this sense the impact of any event. the one that took place in England would be minimal. “

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