The latest headline news in Indonesia recently was that the Ministry of Health stated that they found new Covid-19 variants in Indonesia, mutated strains of the coronavirus that cause COVID-19. The variation of new COVID-19 strains are widely happening around the world.
The Indonesia Ministry of Health has announced on May 4th that new corona virus variants have already entered Indonesia, such as B.1.1.7 ; B.18.104.22.168; and B.22.214.171.124. Press secretary of Indonesian Ministry of Health said 3 types of variants classified with Variant of Concern (VoC) that are aware of these types and this variant B.1.1.7 is known to have a higher transmission rate approximately 36 to 75 percentage compared to other strains of virus previously.1 The distribution of new Covid-19 variants in Indonesia includes 1 case variant type B.1617 found in Riau Island, and 1 case in DKI Jakarta. 2 cases variant B.117 found in North Sumatera, 1 case from South Sumatera, 1 case from Banten, 5 cases from West Java, 1 case from East Java, 1 case from Bali and 1 case from East Kalimantan. Meanwhile, variant B 1351 was found 1 case in Bali.1
Also Read PEDIATRIC ASTHMA AND COVID-19
I. What’s the meaning of Virus Mutation ?
Viruses are simple entities, lacking an energy-generating system and having very limited biosynthetic capabilities. Viruses are subject to mutations, the genomes of different viruses can recombine to form novel progeny, the expression of the viral genome can be regulated, and viral gene products can interact.2
Viruses are continuously changing as a result of genetic selection. They undergo subtle genetic changes through mutation and major genetic changes through recombination. Mutation occurs when an error is incorporated in the viral genome. Recombination (produced by the combining of genetic material from more than one origin) occurs when co-infecting(living with two or more viruses at the same time) viruses exchange genetic information, creating a novel virus.2
All viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, evolve over time. When a virus replicates or makes copies of itself, it sometimes changes a little bit, which is normal for a virus. These changes are called mutations and one or more new mutations is referred to as a variant of the original virus.3
II. What is the difference between new Covid-19 variants in Indonesia ?
- B.1.1.7 : This variant was first discovered in the South East of England (known as B.1.1.7 or VUI 202012/01) are more likely to have a cough, sore throat, fatigue, or myalgia than those infected with other variants, the Office for National Statistic has reported.4 The B.1.1.7 variant is thought to be much more infectious and possibly more deadly, although this is still being investigated.6 The report, which covered cases in England from 15 November 2020 to 16 January 2021, said, “Loss of taste and loss of smell were significantly less common in new variant compatible positives than triple positives, whereas other symptoms were more common in new variant compatible positives, with the largest differences for cough, sore throat, fatigue, myalgia, and fever. There is no evidence of difference in gastrointestinal symptoms, shortness of breath, or headaches.5
- B.126.96.36.199 : this variant first detected in South Africa in October 2020 also known as 501Y.V2. This variant is linked to higher viral load and increased transmission (approx. about 50% increased transmission)7 But, there is still no evidence that B.188.8.131.52 is associated with increased severity of disease.8
- B.184.108.40.206 : This variant was first detected in India in October 2020. The B.220.127.116.11 variant carries two mutations including the L452R and E484Q which have been seen separately before in other variants but never together in one variant. The L425R mutation which has been spotted in fat-spreading variants in California can reportedly increase the binding power of the virus’s spike protein with human cells, making it more transmissible and can also potentially increase viral replication. The E484Q is reportedly similar to the E484K mutation found in the UK and South African variants of the coronavirus which have shown to lower the effectiveness of antibodies generated by vaccine or a previous infection of COVID-19. Researchers are still trying to find the answer about this double mutation. Is it more deadlier than other variants and do existing vaccines work against it? It’s still in search.9
III. The Impact of Vaccine to the New Variants of COVID-19
WHO said that the COVID-19 vaccines that are currently in development or have been approved are expected to provide at least some protection against new virus variants because these vaccines elicit a broad immune response involving a range of antibodies and cells. Therefore, mutations in the virus should not make vaccines completely ineffective. In the event that any of these vaccines prove to be less effective against one or more variants, it will be possible to change the composition of the vaccines to protect against these variants. And WHO and all researcher still in searching and learn more about that.10
IV. What Should We Do ?
Some variants and also Covid-19 variants in Indonesia appear to spread more easily between people and also may spread more easily. But we know we can all still having part to control the spread of COVID-19 and its new variants by keeping the health protocols (included: Washing our hands, Wearing a mask, Staying at least 1 m apart, and limiting time in or avoiding enclosed/crowded spaces)3and get the vaccine!
- https://www.kemkes.go.id/article/view/21050500003/virus-corona-varian-baru-b-117-b-1351-b-1617-sudah-ada-di-indonesia.html. Visited: May 13,2021
- Fleischmann WR Jr. Viral Genetics. In: Baron S, editor. Medical Microbiology. 4th edition. Galveston (TX): University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston; 1996. Chapter 43. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK8439/
- WHO.COVID-19 new variants. https://www.who.int/news-room/feature-stories/detail/the-effects-of-virus-variants-on-covid-19-vaccines?gclid=CjwKCAjw-e2EBhAhEiwAJI5jg6LtkOylLSj2pwQ9is0C79Rft0WuJiY-Da3fRZGVz8w-ondGiJdaMBoC75wQAvD_BwE. Visited: May 13, 2021
- Office for National Statistics. (Covid-19) infection survey: characteristics of people testing positive for covid-19 in England. 27 Jan 2021. https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/conditionsanddiseases/articles/coronaviruscovid19infectionsinthecommunityinengland/characteristicsofpeopletestingpositiveforcovid19inengland27january2021
- Mahase E. Covid-19: What have we learnt about the new variant in the UK?BMJ 2020;371:m4944. https://www.bmj.com/content/371/bmj.m4944 . doi: 10.1136/bmj.m4944 pmid: 33361120
- Iacobucci G. Covid-19: New UK variant may be linked to increased death rate, early data indicate. BMJ 2021;372:n230. https://www.bmj.com/content/372/bmj.n230 . doi: 10.1136/bmj.n230 pmid: 33500262
- Pearson CAB, Russell TW, Davies NG, et al. Estimates of severity and transmissibility of Novel South Africa SARS-CoV-2 variant 501Y.V2. visited:May 13 2021
- WHO. SARS-CoV-2 Variants. https://www.who.int/csr/don/31-december-2020-sars-cov2-variants/en/. Visited: May 13 2021
- Ray, Siladitya. “Double Mutant” Covid Variant: Here’s What We Know as Israel Reports Vaccine Efficacy Against Variant First Detected in India. Forbes. Apr;l 20, 2021. https://www.forbes.com/sites/siladityaray/2021/04/20/double-mutant-covid-variant-heres-what-we-know-as-israel-reports-vaccine-efficacy-against-variant-first-detected-in-india/?sh=4b82b7052fb3
- WHO. The effects of virus variants on COVID-19 vaccines. https://www.who.int/news-room/feature-stories/detail/the-effects-of-virus-variants-on-covid-19-vaccines. Visited: May 13 2021