Everything we know about the new version of Covid

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What is the new variant?

New variant oz Covid-19 appeared, known as B.1.1529. The World Health Organization relies on the Greek alphabet in naming new variants of concern, which means that B.1.1529 could eventually be called Nu, as this is the next available letter.

The variant, which originates from line B.1.1, has an “incredibly large” number of mutations, experts say, fearing it is highly transmissible and effective in avoiding the body’s immune response.

B.1.1529 has 32 mutations located in its spike protein. These include E484A, K417N, and N440K, which are linked to helping the virus avoid antibody detection.

The second mutation, N501Y, found in the spike protein, appears to increase the virus’s ability to enter our cells, making it more transmissible.

where did he come from?

The variant was first observed in Botswana on 11 November, where three cases are now recorded.

Meanwhile, in South Africa, where the first case was observed on 14 November, 22 cases have now been recorded, reports National Institute of Infectious Diseases.

Several cases are expected to be confirmed in the country when the results of the sequence are published, with the South African government saying on Thursday that many cases of B.1.1.529 are located in Gauteng province. He also requested an urgent meeting with the WHO Covid technical working group.

An additional case was found in Hong Kong, involving a 36-year-old passenger – who was staying in South Africa from October 23 to November 11 – and was positive for three days in quarantine when he returned home.

The scientists said that this version has more changes in its spike protein than any other they have seen, with suggestions that it probably originated from a person with a weakened immune system who carried the virus for a long time, perhaps someone with undetected HIV. / aidsom.

Professor Francois Balloux, director of the Institute of Genetics at University College London, said the mutations of the version were in an “unusual constellation” that “accumulated apparently in a single outburst”.

He explained that this suggests that it could develop during a “chronic infection of a person with a weakened immune system, perhaps in an untreated HIV / AIDS patient”.

To date, no case of this version has been reported in the UK.

Is it resistant to vaccines?

The proteins that cover the exterior of the Covid virus allow it to attach to and enter human cells. Vaccines teach the body to recognize these spikes and neutralize them, thus preventing cell infection.

The 32 mutations detected in the spike protein of the new version will change the shape of this structure, making it problematic for the immune response elicited by the vaccines.

These mutations can cause our antibodies not to recognize the spike protein. As a result, they will not be as effective at neutralizing the virus, which can then slip past the immune defenses and cause infection.

Should we be worried?

Scientists have mixed opinions on whether they should be concerned about the latest version.

Dr Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London, warned that this version could be “really worrying” because of its 32 mutations in its spike protein.

However, Professor Balloux said there is currently “no cause for undue concern.”

Dr Peacock wrote on Twitter that the version needs to be “very, very monitored because of this horrible profile of spikes”, which could mean it is more contagious than any other version so far.

He said: “Exports to Asia mean that this is perhaps more widespread than the sequences themselves would suggest.

“Also, the extremely long length of the branches and the incredibly large number of tip mutations suggest that this could be a real concern (predicted escape from most known monoclonal antibodies).”

But dr. Peacock said he “hopes” the variant will turn out to be one of those “unusual clusters” and that it won’t be as portable as they fear.

Professor Balloux, meanwhile, said it was “difficult to predict how portable it is at this stage.”

The professor explained: “For the time being, it should be closely monitored and analyzed, but there is no cause for excessive concern unless it starts to increase in the near future.”

Dr Meera Chand, director of Covid-19 incidents at the UK Health Safety Agency, said the state of new versions of Covid around the world is constantly being monitored randomly and that the small number of cases with “new sets of mutations” is “not uncommon”. . ”

She explained, “Because it is in the nature of viruses to mutate frequently and randomly, it is not uncommon for a small number of cases to occur with new sets of mutations. All versions showing evidence of proliferation shall be assessed rapidly. “

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