By Naadiya Adams
Variants are identified through their genetic code, and with that code scientists are able to predict its behaviour. This has raised concern over the mutated South African strain which has been identified as 501Y.V2, scientists predict it is more transmissible than other strains.
Professor at the Africa Health Research Institute Willem Hannekom says the variant was discovered by Professor Tulio De Oliviera at the Kwa-Zulu Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform, whose team has tracked the genetic code of the virus over time in various patients.
“We can predict by just looking at these mutations that this virus is going to infect humans more easily and in fact that is exactly what has happened, it infects people more easily and seems to spread more easily in the community. So, that’s how this virus actually was discovered, similar research activities has happened all over the world,” says Hannekom.
Dubbed the South African variant, many countries have began implementing travel bans from South Africa for that very reason, citing the variant as a cause for concern in that it spreads rapidly. More so than in other countries including the UK.
“The variant in the UK is spreading at least one and half times more easily than other variants that have been circulating before, and we think that the South African variant is one and half times similarly, spreads one and half times more easily but we don’t know at the moment but the actual mutations we’re seeing in the South African variant is cause for concern because it looks as though it can spread more easily than that of the UK.”
Hannekom says while concerns are rife over the new variant, the second wave seems to have peaked and is now on the decline. He says it shows that what we are doing is working. The simple acts of distancing ourselves, wearing masks and sanitizing is proving to be a key part of bringing the pandemic under control in spite of a more contagious mutation.