Recently, the rise of Covid-19 infections in multiple countries, driven by a new Coronavirus variant called BA.2.86, which is informally being termed ‘Pirola’.
Pirola has been witnessed in the US, the UK, and other countries, in unrelated cases.
- This was similar to the number of mutations that differed between Delta, one of the early strains of the coronavirus, and Omicron (that was dominant in the winter of 2021).
How do viruses mutate, exactly?
- It is natural for all viruses to mutate over time and such changes are particularly common in viruses that have RNA as their genetic material, as in the case of coronaviruses and influenza viruses.
- Once a virus enters the human body, its genetic material — RNA or DNA — enters the cells and starts making copies of itself which can infect the other cells.
- Whenever an error occurs during this copying process, it triggers a mutation.
- Occasionally, a mutation comes along when the genetic mistakes that are introduced while copying prove to be advantageous for the virus — these help the virus copy itself or enter human cells more easily.
- Whenever a virus is widely circulating in a population, the more it spreads and replicates, its chances of mutating increases.
What differentiates Pirola?
- This is a “much more interesting subvariant”, when compared to the Omicron subvariant known as XBB.1.9.
- That variant initially spread quickly but did not overwhelm populations at a significant scale.
- So far, no deaths have been reported among cases, according to the WHO.
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