Since in the month of December of last year 2020 until it became predominant in more than one country around the world, the then known as british strain, now variant Alpha coronavirus, it took a few months to achieve “its goal.”
A success for which scientists have been looking for answers from the beginning of its sequencing.
Now, a recently published study demonstrates how the stealth with which the strain moves and enters the human immune system would be the reason for the success of the Alpha variant.
The study («Evolution of Innate Immune Evasion Enhanced by the UK SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7 Variant ») has been carried out by the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, located in the town of Laurel Hallow, in the state of New York, in the United States.
In this research it has been possible to demonstrate the way in which the variant acts.
The first approximation to this reason for rapid spread is by its ability to deactivate the body’s first line of immune defense and thereby achieving a greater amount of time to spread.
And that seems to be the key.
The Alpha variant of the coronavirus, according to studies conducted by Gregory Towers, virólogo del University College London, produces in lung cells a lower amount of interferon, a protein that is responsible for activating different immune defenses.
The same happens with a good handful of genes in charge of the defense of the organism. The silent passage of this strain of the coronavirus does not activate them, thus preventing their rapid action for our defense.
It is as if the virus became invisible to our organism and the alarms did not go off to launch the defenses against its attack.
But there is more. The scientific team has also shown how with the Alpha variant it is capable of producing a large amount of a protein called Orf9b, which is responsible for further reducing the response of our immune system.
Is Orf9b would invade other human proteins, known as Tom70, which are in charge of launching the alarm message before the entry of a virus so that this interferon is produced to help stop its advance.
In that way the Alpha variant manages to avoid any possibility of a complete immune response.
This characteristic, which resides in one of its mutations, makes it even more invisible to our body.
The late response to the Alpha variant
Our body, according to the study, is capable of deactivating the function of these virus proteins after twelve hours of their entry into the body of the infected patient.
Faced with this situation of helplessness of our body, that deactivation of the alarms and the silent passage of the virus, the immune system of those affected by this variant occurs much later than with other strains.
As a consequence of this late response, and in the face of the virus’s advance situation, the organism puts all the meat on the grill to expel it, generating a more violent response.
For this reason, patients infected with the Alpha strain of the coronavirus end up responding with more virus-laden mucus, both in the nose and in the mouth, causing its spread to be more noticeable.
A worrying situation that would respond to the reasons that have led to the Alpha variant of the coronavirus being the most contagious of all that have existed to date.
And it is that, although it has also been confirmed that other variants such as Delta Y Beta they deactivate the production of interferon in a remarkable way, they do not produce that effect of propagation of the Orf9b proteins that turn off the second alarm mechanism of our organism.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.