Scientists have raised alarm after a new strain of coronavirus was discovered in patients from different regions of the globe. The virus is resistant to vaccines only adds to their concerns.
Covid-19’s latest variant has some significant modifications in its spikes. This could render it immune to vaccines. This coronavirus strain could have the highest evolution rate, with 32 mutations reported. The currently dominant, highly transmissible Delta strain, which has contributed to this year’s surge in cases globally, has at least 11 spike mutations.
Originally spotted in three patients in Botswana – and thus known as the Botswana variant – it has already been found in three countries since the first infections on November 11. According to British media, six cases were found in South Africa and another one was registered in Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong patient recently traveled to China from South Africa – putting scientists on high alert, as the new variant could have spread anywhere through international travel. It is believed that the patient was double-vaccinated.
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News of the mutated strain, known as B.1.1.529 and which could end up being named ‘Nu’, was shared by Tom Peacock, a virologist at London’s Imperial College Department of Infectious Disease. Describing the Botswana variant’s spike profile as “Terrible,” he tweeted that it could be “Antigenically, it is worse than almost anything else.”
Just spotted: very small cluster of variant associated with Southern Africa with very long branch length and really awful Spike mutation profile including RBD – K417N, N440K, G446S, S477N, T478K, E484A, Q493K, G496S, Q498R, N501Y, Y505Hhttps://t.co/kgA9c1hKDa
— Tom Peacock (@PeacockFlu) November 23, 2021
Warning that the new variant has a “Extremely long branches with terrible spike mutation profiles,” the virologist said it “Very, very carefully should be observed.” On the bright side, according to researchers, the high number of mutations could mean the variant is unstable, which might prevent it from becoming widespread.
Covid-19 is responsible for more than 5 million deaths worldwide. There are over 259 million of these people.
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