#MSCOVID19 Why Has Christmas Been Cancelled?


If you don’t live in the UK. You say what? Christmas Cancelled. Butif you live in the South East of England it has. ProfG was not going anywhere fast, but some of us had plans and that was not to stay at home on our lonesome. But after BoJo and Co had said go-on…make plan for crimbo..but these plans have all turned to SH1.

Why? It was always on the cards that a relaxation of Christmas rules was going to result in a COVID-19 surge, but events have resulted in a turn for the worse and the UK has been isolated from Europe…..Brexit was not supposed to happen until the end of the year:-(.

However, a new variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus called (B.1.1.7) has emerged in the UK and the Continental Europeans don’t want it. So they have closed incoming routes.

Sadly I think most people going home for Christmas have already gone. UK labs have a lot of people from the EU and they have probably taken the new variant with them, as they left this weekend,

When you get a virus infection, it divides and then eventually it gets destroyed. However the virus mutates and some of these variants may infect others before you get rid of it. It then may mutate in the next person infected and so on. The mutations may mean nothing or that the virus becomes more…or less infective.

Now if you are immunosuppressed, you may not get rid of the virus as quickly and therefore there is a greater chance that mutations occur and these may accumulate with time. It appears the new UK variant has mutated a few times from the Wuhan, Chinese variant. Some of the mutations accumulated in the UK variant, appear to increase the risk of infection and it seems that the UK-variant that was first detected in Kent in the South East of England in September. It is now the dominant UK variant and is spreading rapidly in the South East of England…causing concern for other countries and the cancelation of Christmas for Yours truly.

The virus infects cells because it contains a Spike protein that binds to human angiotensin converting enzyme two (ACE-2) in the lungs and other tissues.

The spike protein is involved in infecting cells

There are variants in the SARS-CoV-2 virus that have appeared in the UK

D614G At position 614 the amino acid D (aspartic acid) has been changed to G (glycine). This was not present when the virus first emerged but is now ubiquitous (common)and appears to be associated a moderated effect on SARS-CoV-2 transmissibility (increases infectivity).

A222V (analine to valine at position 222) is present in the 20A.EU1 SARS-CoV-2 ‘cluster’ (also designated as lineage B.1.177), which has been spreading in Europe and seems to have originated in Spain. Multiple introductions have occurred into the UK followed by transmission across the country, suggesting that this spread was likely associated with travel to/from Spain over the summer when BoJo had one of his last “Bright-Ideas”.

N439K first emerged in Scotland in March 2020 in a lineage that is no longer circulating (B.1.141), but has since been introduced into the UK on multiple occasions (in lineage B.1.258). This is now circulating in many European countries and internationally.

Y453F (tyrosine to phenyl analaine) has received widespread attention because it has been observed in the context of mink-human
infections and it appeared in the widely reported Danish Mink cluster but has not been observed in the UK. This signalled the death warrant for 17 million mink and killed off the Fur trade in Denmark and the Netherlands. This is of concern as this may be less suseptible for the vaccine generated antibodies.

The N501Y (Asparagine to tyrosine at position 501) and 69-70 deletion are present in B.1.1.7. N501Y is also present in a lineage of independent origins circulating in Wales (this lineage does not have the other mutation seen in B.1.1.7).

The B.1.1.7 variant has 23 mutations with 14 amino acid replacements and 3 in-frame deletions. Two of these mutations have already been described to alter SARS-CoV-2 biology: N501Y sits in the receptor binding motif (RBM) of the Spike protein, and has been described to increase binding to the human ACE-2 receptor; 69-70del has been identified in variants associated with immune escape (avoidance of viral destruction) in immunocompromised patients

There are alternative explanations about the spread, so London does not only give the Shires that invisible income, it may also have given them an invisible infection and it has reeached Scotlan and Continental Europe alreay:-(

The new variant has mutations to the spike protein that the three leading vaccines are targeting. However vaccines produce antibodies against many regions in the spike protein, so it’s unlikely that a single change would make the vaccine less effective.

Over time, as more mutations occur, the vaccine may need to be altered. This happens with seasonal flu, which mutates every year, and the vaccine is adjusted accordingly. The SARS-CoV-2 virus doesn’t mutate as quickly as the flu virus, and the vaccines that have so far proved effective in trials are types that can easily be tweaked if necessary.

So another good reason for everyone to get vaccinated as quickly. It is important that people who are immunosupressed get rid of the virus as soon as possible because you dont want help the Prime minister Grinch to steal next Christmas too.

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  • Sorry you can’t get back to Yorkshire MD. Stuck in lockdown London bad luck.

    Interesting how changing just one amino acid can lead to rapid evolutionary success for a new strain, or not and it fizzles out never to be heard of. I hear the latest Kent version has multiple mutations. Since when has the Today programme interviewed so many Professors of virology and epidemiology in the morning?

    • The non refundable hotel booked after BoJo said Crimbo going ahead is the bad luck:-)

      Yes the kent version has 17 coding mutations 14 amino acid changes and 3 deletion.

  • Is the new variant really more infective or did it just get a good start from a few seeding events in the SE, and the more infective line is what the medical advisors are feeding to Boris to get him to actually do something that he should have done 6 weeks ago?

    • Good point it could be that because it is a London variant and we sent all our students around the country on 3 December you have an expansion of virus two weeks later. Maybe this is why the French have put the block for 48 h whilst they think what to do, maybe if planes had been grounded and summer and skiing holidays had been put on hold we would be where we are today

      • Nomenclature clarification please: what is the difference between a strain and variant???. It seems to be used interchangeably a lot. But it’s different, is it not? Am I being too picky? Should we worry if people in the know refer to The mutation that stole Christmas as a “strain”? Is use of certain nomenclature a tell? Is the mink mutation deletion prevalent?

  • Some of the mutations accumulated in the UK variant, appear to increase the risk of infection

    This bit is not correct

    Listen to the maven

    • The maven did not say anything (The Earth’s Virology Professor.Indeed..Em) but “we need more evidence”. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence> However, people SH1ing themselves because of science evidence is not new. I am sure we all stopped eating Beef twenty years ago. Prof John Collinge probably got a million of more pounds research money for every single person that got variant BSE….did the the problem matierialise we have forgotten about it already. Whilst it is all very well saying don’t panic and yes don’t panic, but you dont have the information to say it does not infect quicker either. We will see, this weekend we spread the variant round the country by giving enough time for people to leave before mondaay the train stations were rammed and social distancing was out of the window. To think this variant has not been spread to continental Europe is in my mind delusional if it has been circulating for 3 months.

      • The virus as mutates 12 000 times allready

        Does that mutations matter in the past?

        Do you thing that this one is the real one?
        Or just another one?

  • This variant has now been detected in NSW forcing all borders to close once again for Christmas. I truly crappy end to a craptacular year.

    Stay safe and try enjoy Christmas in whatever form it takes.

    • However it must be pointed out that closure of borders has happened before. The Australian Government have responded swiftly as usual:-)

      • Yep, this is the third time. But pressure from federal government is mounting to open the borders due to economic and trade issues. It’s a fine balancing act. More than 40K tested in NSW yesterday and only 8 positive. They are tracing all community transmission quickly and effectively. Easier to do with such a low population. Our low population density also helps limit spread of the virus. Almost everyone is wearing masks in Australia. Overall, we’ve done pretty well. Time will tell whether that lasts. Please remember that the carers of PwMS are also having to modify their lives to limit the possibility of becoming infected and passing it onto their partners. I’m getting swabbed again today as I have a runny nose and lethargy. 4th time being tested. Government encourages this level of vigilience.

        • Testing and adhering to the regulatorions are a good thing. South Korea 722 deaths off a 51 million population, Australia 908 deaths UK 68,000 deaths

          On the BBC website apparently we sequence 10% of the the PCR tests, have half of Worlds the virus genomes. Last week wWles tested 4,000 genomes apparently more that France has every tested since the Pandemic began. If there is a new variant to be found we will find it.


    • Not sure that it was the UK variant that forced the borders to close… the UK variant was only found in NSW quarantine, it won’t be long before the UK variant is found in quarantine in another state. Borders closed to NSW residents due to a US variant (most likely) that some how got out of quarantine into the community. The Australian state government do respond rapidly, but how much is evidence and how much is politics is debatable. Testing numbers are amazing and contact tracing is able to keep up so fingers crossed this outbreak will get stamped out like the others that NSW has dealt with over the past few months.

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