Variants of the coronavirus are present in New York City, including the South African variant and the U.K. variant. According to the CDC and the City, it is still unclear how much these variants have spread in the city and the U.S. So far, recent studies suggest the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines protect people against the variants. A recent laboratory study indicates the South African variant could reduce the efficiency of the Pfizer vaccine.
A variant is a name for a different version of the virus. Variants are distinguished by a common set of mutations in RNA, the genetic material of the virus. The South African variant and the U.K. variant both spread more quickly and more easily than original strain found in China.
The U.K. variant appears to be more deadly, while the South African variant does not. One of the more significant differences in the U.K. variant, also known as the B.1.1.7 version, is the spike protein in the virus’s outer coating. This protein sticks better to the protein receptors in the nose, lungs, and other areas. The virus uses its spike to draw itself close to a cell, fuse to it, and move inside. The virus then takes over the different parts of the cell, using different parts of the cell to replicate its genetic material.
One of the most important pieces of replication machinery is a cell’s ribosomes. Each ribosome acts as a tiny motor to synthesize proteins. In addition to tracking variants in the City and outside it and figuring out how to improve vaccines, scientists are now working on drugs that prevent the virus from entering different cell types.