The recent lack of control over the epidemic in India has taken Brazil and the world to a new stage of concern with type B1.617. Although not a novelty – it was discovered in October 2020 – the number of cases causing it in the Asian country has increased significantly in recent weeks. In addition, tensions have been detected in 44 other countries from six continents.
In the United Kingdom, the large increase in new cases due to B.1.617 threatens the economic and social reopening of the country planned for June. Although Brazil has not yet recorded the presence of new tensions in its region, confirmation of its arrival in neighboring Argentina and hospitalization of an Indian patient in Maranho indicate an alert in the country.
This version has three versions with slight differences. Genetic analysis revealed that their genes have significant mutations that encode the spike, a protein located on the surface of the virus and responsible for initiating infection by attaching to human cells.
Amidst all the changes, some have attracted the attention of scientists around the world, with an emphasis on three: L452R, E484Q and P681R. While the first was already found in various forms in the states of New York and California, the second has great similarities with strains found in Brazil, the United Kingdom, and South Africa. Third, despite prominence, it still does not appear to have been found outside Indian territory.
In summary, new improvements found in these variants may represent ease of infection with coronaviruses in humans. The virus may now rely on a slightly lower load, before a greater viral load is required, which represents a large increase in its spread.
Despite all the recent discoveries about B.1.617, not much is known about it. Scientists have not yet been able to define, for example, the actual rate of their transmission and the extent to which their genetic changes affect the effectiveness of available vaccines. Furthermore, it still cannot be certain whether the new strain is responsible for the most severe cases of Kovid-19, which require hospitalization and intubation.
Based on the data so far, the UK Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Indie-SEZ) has speculated to understand how the new version could affect the epidemic there. If B.1.1.16 is 35% more transitive on average than B.1.1.6, then it is possible that the country will experience a new wave of hospitalization on the lines of previous waves. If it is further proven that the new strain can “disrupt” the vaccine, an even more chaotic scenario may arise.
The United Kingdom is one of the countries with the best virus surveillance system in the world. Through this system it was possible to find that in just one week, the number of cases caused by this new version has nearly tripled. More than 1,300 analyzes identified the new version on 12 May, compared to 520 the previous week. Even in some English regions, B.1.617 is already considered a major stressor.
Among the countless negative records in India, it is too early to attribute the huge increase in cases and deaths in new forms alone. An analysis conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 9 May looks at the new strains, but also highlights recent loopholes related to religious and political events and the relaxation of restrictive measures, such as the use of masks and social distance.
While the WHO exposes B.1.617 as a “form of legal concern”, the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is still waiting for more data to provide a definitive opinion.
Although the new version has not yet been detected in the Brazilian region, the warning signal has already been commissioned. Two cases of the new version were found in Argentina, a neighboring country with a continuous flow of people. In addition, an Indian patient was infected with the new coronavirus by the arrival of a ship in Sao Luis, the capital of Maranhão. He remains under surveillance and in isolation in a private hospital, at the same time that health monitoring decided to quarantine all of the ship’s crew.
15 days ago, the National Health Monitoring Agency (Anvisa) suggested that the federal government take more powerful measures such as a ban on flights from India. However, the remedy was not carried out until ten days later.
It is not yet clear how the new version may behave in the event of its arrival in Brazil, which is taken over by the P.1 version. For example, British and South African versions were also found in the Brazilian region, but they did not develop like other countries. P.1 was first found in Manaus and spread across the country in a few weeks, becoming the most frequently occurring strain of broadcasts seen in the country.
Since the onset of the epidemic, Brazil has reported more than 15.7 million cases of new coronaviruses. Of these, 437 thousand died. Vaccination rates continue to slow in the country, with about 36 million doses applied so far, equivalent to more than 17% of the entire population.