New Covid-19 variant with multiple mutations identified, scientists warn

Researchers are warning of the discovery of a new variant of Covid-19 that carries an “extremely high” amount of virus mutations. B.1.1.529 was first detected in Botswana and so far only 10 cases have been confirmed.

According to researchers at Imperial College London, the concern is that this strain, due to its high number of mutations compared to the version of the virus originally discovered, is able to escape the protection granted by infection by Covid-19 or even some vaccines , but this still needs to be confirmed.

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Three cases of the Strain have been identified in Botswana, where it was originally found. However, another six diagnoses occurred in South Africa and one in Hong Kong, from a traveler returning from the African country. All cases were confirmed through genetic sequencing.

The greatest risk of the new variant is due to the 32 mutations it has in the Spike protein. It is precisely this part of the virus that most vaccines use so that the immune system is able to stop Covid-19. In other words, alterations in these proteins can be potentially dangerous.

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New Covid-19 variant

Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London, noted that “the incredibly high amount of peak mutations suggests that this could be a real concern.” He adds that the new Covid-19 variant should be “very, very monitored due to this horrible peak profile”.

Dr. Meera Chand, director of the UK Health Safety Agency, said she monitors this strain. “As it is the nature of viruses to mutate frequently and randomly, it is not uncommon for small numbers of cases to appear with new sets of mutations. Any variants that show evidence of spread are quickly evaluated,” he said.

For Ravi Gupta, professor of clinical microbiology at the University of Cambridge, despite the risk, it is still too early to say that this mutation is more transmissible, as happened with Delta, for example. “A key property of the virus that is unknown is its infectivity, as that is what appears to have mainly caused the Delta variant. The immune flight is just part of the picture of what can happen,” he explained.

Also on Thursday (25), a survey suggested that viruses linked to Covid-19 were already circulating among Cambodian bats a few decades before the disease reached humans.

Via The Guardian

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