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Coronavirus mutations: Here are the major Covid strains we know about

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Coronavirus mutations: Here are the major Covid strains we know about

Healthcare workers enter visitor information on laptops before administering doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Mother and Child Hospital in Belgrade, Serbia, on Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021.

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Viruses constantly mutate, so it’s not surprising that the coronavirus that emerged in China in late 2019 has gone through multiple minor variations. But it has also undergone several major mutations, and it’s likely that more, significant variations will emerge.

Most recently, strains have emerged in South Africa and the U.K. that have prompted some concerns about the efficacy of coronavirus vaccines . There is also a suspected new strain in the U.S. , with the White House coronavirus task force warning early in the new year that there could be a new, more transmissible variant of the virus that evolved in the U.S. and is driving spread, according to a document obtained by NBC News.

And on Sunday, Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases said it had detected a new variant of the coronavirus in four travelers arriving from Brazil .

Essentially, scientists worry about any major changes to the virus’ so-called spike protein . This contains the receptor-binding domain, and is used by the virus to gain entry into cells within the body.

As such, mutations can not only make the virus more transmissible, they can mean that vaccines are rendered less powerful and require them to be updated. The ‘UK variant’ A new variant was reported by U.K. health officials to the World Health Organization on Dec. 14 that is now known formally as “VOC 202012/01” (which stands for “variant of concern, year 2020, month 12, […]

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