SARS-CoV-2 UK variant: Does it matter?

A variant of SARS-CoV-2 has been spreading within England, and it has been suggested that this virus is more transmissible. In this video Vincent explains the properties of the SARS-CoV-2 UK variant and why claims that it is more transmissible are not supported by experimental data.

This video was recorded on Monday, 21 December 2020. Since then additional data on the UK variant have been released but they do not change my view: there are no biological data in humans showing that the virus has increased transmissibility. The variant is certainly spreading in the population, but that could be due to other situations that have not been ruled out.

11 thoughts on “SARS-CoV-2 UK variant: Does it matter?”

  1. Benjamin M Blumberg, PhD

    Maybe there is no scientific evidence that the new strain is more transmissible, but that is like saying that there is no evidence that obesity is rampant in America. This variant is said to have 17 mutations compared with the original Chinese strain. That would be a surprisingly large number if Coronavirus RNA polymerases were like negative-strand RNA virus polymerases or HIV-1 and lacked an editing function, but the SARS-CoV-2 RNA polymerase DOES HAVE an editing function, so 17 mutations is a REALLY SURPRISINGLY LARGE NUMBER! Clearly, more work is needed…

  2. Alcides Francisco da Rocha

    Extremely enlightening video. Our problem here in Brazil is the massive amount of information disseminated by laypeople, loaded with unnecessary doubts and speculations and the politicization of vaccination. This class could help narrow down irrelevant debates so that governments focus on what really matters, vaccination. After all now we really have a resource against the viral particle.

  3. From the UK, it wouldn’t surprise me if this were political. In the summer, Manchester was placed into then new restrictions and Eid in Manchester cancelled at the equivalent of at 10pm on Christmas Eve. There was a lot of chatter online about northerners not obeying the rules and blatant racism towards Muslims. Now when it’s Christmas (a much bigger problem politically!) and the south (think inversion of the US in terms of north/ south divide and class assumptions, more or less), it’s a freak mutant virus scaring the whole world, rather than… people assuming it’s a northern problem because hand washing and cough hygiene are reserved for the refined who live south of the Watford Gap.
    It changes nothing for me personally, I continue to live as locked down as I can because – hello there’s a pandemic going on. But it wouldn’t surprise me if the above came into play.

  4. Thankyou Prof Vincent Racaniello for your incisive commentary cutting the misconceptions about this down to size.

    All it takes is one illegal houseparty hosting a superspreader event for a new variant and all of a sudden the founder effect means the R number for that variant goes through the roof.

    It becomes significantly misleading when we should be concerned about the superspreader events caused by human behaviour, as a higher priority than the potential red herring of the tranmissability of a new variant, to prevent the spread of covid-19.

    At least the response of a tier 4 lock down in the south east of England is appropriate to the increasing rate for infections in the region.

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  8. But the strange is the short time when mutation produces, and what the mutants are able to survive. Is not more transmisible, is more classic coronavirus than the “first wave” strain. IS more contagious because aparently the virus interacts with many humans. the aminoacides must not understimated, look at the coronavirus what cause MERS.(what uses CD26 receptors) the other coronavirus uses hemaglutinine. The MERS has 35 % of lethality. Example: Ebola is very contagious but can´t nor sustein selfsustain contagion change, the 2 concepts or transmisible, the second wave like classic “cold virus” coronavirus remains in nose and throath is contagious like the classic coronaviruses, I mean, It has reservoir in youngest people than the original. perhaps is humanizing. More seasonal, will be a nice business for the labs. Pdta: An aminoacid is not a girl using different dress, the aminoacids are part of polarization, structural of the virus perhaps, not so zoonotic like MERS with unestable equilibrium in aminoacids. ( I hope in arabian peninsula doesn´t mix withs MERS (low epydemic but so contagious and lethal what kills the reservoir) Greetings
    PS: the real concern of the WHO always was MERS

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