Coronvirus: variant with 82 worrying cases
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TORONTO – A scientist from the UK takes note of a variant of COVID-19 originating in Botswana with an astonishing number of mutations, although there have only been 82 confirmed cases to date.
The B.1.1.529 variant was first discovered in this southern African country and has since been found in South Africa and in a traveler in Hong Kong who had visited South Africa. At a briefing Thursday, South African officials reported 82 cases of the variant, including 77 in South Africa.
Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London, said earlier this week that its potential is worth noting due to its 32 peak mutations, even though there had only been 10 confirmed cases at the ‘era.
“The export to Asia implies that it might be more prevalent than the sequences alone would suggest,” Peacock wrote on a genome-sharing website. “Additionally, the extremely long branch lengths and the incredibly high number of tip mutations suggest that this could be a real concern. “
Mutations in the spike protein, or spike mutations, can change the way a virus infects cells and spreads. These mutations can also make it harder for the body’s immune system to attack it.
The World Health Organization currently lists B.1.1.529 as a “variant under surveillance”, which is lower than the agency’s classification of “variants of interest” and “variants of concern.”
On Thursday, the UK announced it would ban flights from South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Eswatini as a precaution. Travelers returning from these countries should be quarantined.
Dr. Peter Juni, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto and a member of the Ontario COVID-19 Scientific Advisory Table, told CTV News Channel on Thursday that these kinds of cases explain why border restrictions are important.
“This combination of two doses of a vaccine and a negative test – it can also be a rapid test – it is just a good protection against the too early importation of this type of variants into the province”, a- he declared. “It happened before with Alpha, it happened with Delta, we don’t want it anymore.”
In a Twitter feed on the variantPeacock called the peak mutation profile “horrific,” but stressed that the low number of cases makes it something to watch for now.
“It is worth pointing out that the numbers are currently very low in an area of Africa that is fairly well sampled, but it should very, very well be watched because of this horrible peak profile. ” he said.
“It is possible that this is just a strange cluster that is not very transmissible. I hope this is the case ”, he wrote in another tweet.
Francois Balloux, professor of computer systems biology and director of the Institute of Genetics at University College London, said in a statement that B.1.1.529 exhibits an “unusual constellation of mutations” and has likely evolved over the course of a prolonged infection of an immunocompromised person.
“I would certainly expect it to be poorly recognized by neutralizing antibodies compared to Alpha or Delta,” he wrote. “It’s hard to predict how transmissible it can be at this stage.”
Balloux said the variant was not too much of a concern, unless “it starts to increase in frequency in the near future.”
For Juni, this new variant is something to watch out for, but not to make any drastic adjustments just yet.
“It’s important to watch him, but we shouldn’t be too worried at the moment,” he said.
“Let’s remember (the virus) is indeed invading the immune system – that’s one aspect – but it’s also about how much it spreads to other people and how bad it is. can spread. So when you take all of that into account, we’ll see what happens. “
With files from Reuters
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