South African scientists and health officials this week confirmed the detection of a new variant SARS-CoV-2, identified as B.1.1.529, which has several mutations and this has raised “concern” among experts, although its impact has not yet been studied.
The new variant has “a very unusual constellation of mutations” but its “meaning is still uncertain,” he explained at a virtual press conference. Tulio de Oliveira, gives Platform of KwaZulu-Natal research and sequencing innovation (South Africa).
B.1.1.529 has more than thirty mutations. Some of them are of concern because of their possible impact on transmissibility and their potential ability to escape immunity.
as reflected Neil Ferguson, Teacher of MRC Center for the Analysis of Global Infectious Diseases of London Imperial College (UK), the new variant has an unprecedented number of mutations “in the spike or S protein, which is the target of most vaccines”, which could mean that it “has a greater potential for bypassing immunity than the variants previous ones”, adds the researcher.
So far they have Confirmed cases of this variant in South Africa, about Hong Kong (in a traveler from the African country) and in the neighbor Botswana, according to the data provided by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases of South Africa.
In total, B.1.1.529 has more than thirty mutations. According to South African scientists, this has a possible impact on Transferability and for its potential ability to run away from immunity or previous protection.
“There is a great evolutionary leap, especially after a very severe third delta wave (variant),”, said Oliveira. “We could see this variant expand very quickly,” according to data collected in the South African province of Gauteng (where Johannesburg and Pretoria are), where in recent days the number of cases of covid-19 increased significantly.
We could see this variant expand very quickly. So far, cases have been confirmed in South Africa, Hong Kong (in a traveler from the African country) and neighboring Botswana
“Given the large number of mutations that accumulated, apparently in a single infectious event, it is likely that it evolved during the chronic infection of an immunosuppressed person, possibly with untreated HIV”, he pondered. Francoix Balloux, of UCL Genetics Institute (United Kingdom).
South African experts emphasized, however, that detection of this new variant was done “very, very early” and were optimistic that this favors the to control of its expansion.
In fact, their discovery came in an analysis in last november 23, from samples taken between the 14th and 16th of the same month, after an increase in the number of cases detected in Johannesburg and Pretoria.
The discovery of this variant occurred in an analysis on the 23rd of November, in collections carried out between the 14th and the 16th of the same month.
“We didn’t want it to be rumored”, stressed, in turn, the Health Minister of South Africa, joe phaahla.
Oliveira also indicated that he expects the World Health Organization (WHO) provide a new Name greek letter for this variant, as was done with the rest. “Although B.1.1.529 was first detected in South Africa, this does not necessarily mean that it originated in this southern country,” he emphasized.
To date, South Africa has accumulated around 2.95 million covid-19 cases, with around 90,000 deaths. This country is the epicenter of the pandemic on the African continent and has already suffered the effects of another variant, beta, during its second wave (between late 2020 and early 2021), which was later swept away by the delta variant in the third wave. (mid 2021).
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