The UK Warns of a Highly Mutated and Potentially Dangerous New Strain of Coronavirus
British virologists have reported the emergence of a new strain of coronavirus containing a number of mutations that potentially make it more resistant to vaccines than any other genetic variant of SARS-CoV-2.
32 mutations were found in the thorn protein of the new strain B.1.1.529, and several of them at once make it difficult to detect the pathogen by antibodies, explains the Daily Mail.
To date, only 10 cases are known in which variant B.1.1.529 has been found in the decoding of coronavirus genomes from samples taken from infected humans. It was first entered into the databases on November 11. Three cases have been reported in Botswana, six in South Africa and another in Hong Kong, where the virus was found in a man who arrived in the country from South Africa two weeks earlier.
There is still no information to suggest that the new variant of the virus may be particularly contagious and capable of spreading as fast as the world's dominant Delta strain. Tom Peacock, a researcher at Imperial College London, was the first to call for special attention to B.1.1.529. According to him, the new strain has a "really terrible mutation profile of the thorn protein".
"The incredibly large number of mutations in thorn protein indicates that it may be a cause for serious concern (predicting that it will deviate from most of the known monoclonal antibodies)," Peacock wrote. The scientist notes that although so far there are very few detected cases of infection with the new strain, it must be closely monitored.
Several other British experts agreed with this view, stressing that its ability to spread will play a key role in determining the potential danger of the new strain. "The nature of viruses suggests frequent and random mutations, and it is not uncommon for a small number of cases to occur when [the next strain] has a new set of mutations. Any variant showing signs of spread is being assessed quickly,"said Mira Chand, a spokesman for the British health safety agency set up in April this year.
According to the director of the Institute of Genetics at Imperial College London, Professor Francois Balotte, the new strain may have formed in a person with a weakened immune system (probably an HIV / AIDS patient who has not received appropriate treatment). The chronic course of coronavirus infection, which the immune system cannot cope with, can allow the virus to accumulate a large number of mutations in a patient's body at once.
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