Sunday, 05 December 2021 07:50 GMT

India - Heavily mutated coronavirus variant found in South Africa


(MENAFN- NewsBytes) A new variant of the coronavirus has been found in South Africa and several other countries. Scientists say the heavily-mutated strain seems to be spreading quickly and may possibly evade prior immunity. The World Health Organization (WHO) is expected to convene an emergency meeting on Friday to discuss the variant's concerning rise. Here's what you need to know about it.

Origin When and where did it originate?

The B1.1.529 variant was first identified in the African nation of Botswana on November 11. South Africa has reported the most number of cases at 22, according to the country's National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD). NICD said the cases are 'increasing quickly' in three South African provinces. One case has been found in Hong Kong from someone who had traveled from South Africa.

Details How dangerous is the strain?

The variant has more than 30 mutations in the spike protein alone, said Dr. Tulio de Oliveira, the Director of the KwaZulu-Natal Research and Innovation Sequencing Platform. On the ACE2 receptor, the strain carries 10 mutations. In comparison, the Beta variant has three and the Delta has two. Scientists are working to find out the effectiveness of vaccines against this variant.

Quote 'A big jump in evolution'

'This variant did surprise us, it has a big jump in evolution, many more mutations than we expected, especially after a very severe third wave of Delta,' said Dr. Oliveira.

Report Did it evolve in an AIDS patient?

Francois Balloux, the Director at UCL Genetics Institute, warned the variant likely evolved from a chronic infection in an untreated HIV/AIDS patient. 'It is difficult to know what to make of the carriage of both P681H and N679K. It is a combination we see only exceptionally rarely. I suspect it is generally not stable, but it might be so, in combination with other mutations/deletions.'

WHO WHO team's meet on Friday

A WHO technical team will meet on Friday and decide if the variant should be designated a variant of 'interest' or of 'concern.' A letter of the Greek alphabet will also be assigned to it. 'Early analysis shows that this variant has a large number of mutations that require and will undergo further study,' the health body said.

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