The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is preparing for the year end festive season with the advent of many new emerging variants and sub-variants…its gift to stupid mankind.
A new variant, B.1.1529 which was discovered and labelled as horrifying by Imperial College London virologist Dr Tom Peacock, has made its debut in early November in Botswana and is now spreading extensively in South Africa.
Great news is that is has also been discovered in Hong Kong and is believed to be spreading fast globally due to certain existing PCR testing platforms unable to recognize the new variant.
Dr Peacock warned that the “incredibly high amount of spike mutations suggest this could be of real concern”, with cases so far found in three countries.
The new variant has medical experts and virologists on high alert, as with the high amount of mutations found on its spike proteins alone, the new variant can easily evade both natural immunity and it could be harder for existing COVID vaccinations to combat the new strain.
To date, six cases have been found in South Africa alone and a total of 10 cases have been found across three countries. However, experts are warning that many current PCR testing platforms might not be able to recognize the new variant and many cases might go undetected and help spread the new variant even faster.
Leading researchers over the last 24 hours are saying that the new SARS-CoV-2 variant that carries an “extremely high number” of mutations may drive further waves of disease by evading the body’s defences.
With 32 mutations alone on the spike protein (the part of the virus that most vaccines use to prime the immune system against COVID-19) not to mention the other mutations found elsewhere on its genome, the new B.1.1529 variant is thought to be more transmissible, immune evasive andmore virulent based on the based the profile of these mutations.
Mutations in the spike protein can affect the virus’s ability to infect cells and spread, but also make it harder for immune cells to attack the pathogen.
It was reported that the variant was first spotted in Botswana, where three cases have now been sequenced. Six more have been confirmed in South Africa, and one in Hong Kong in a traveller returning from South Africa.
The COVID-19 incident director at the UK Health Security Agency, Dr Meera Chand, said that in partnership with scientific bodies around the globe, the agency was constantly monitoring the status of Sars-CoV-2 variants as they emerge and develop worldwide.
On the B.1.1529 lineage in Botswana:
Prof Francois Balloux, Professor of Computational Systems Biology and Director, UCL Genetics Institute, UCL, said:
“B.1.1529 is a new lineage that has been found in Botswana that carries an unusual constellation of mutations. Given the large number of mutations it has accumulated apparently in a single burst, it likely evolved during a chronic infection of an immunocompromised person, possibly 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.
“I would definitely expect it to be poorly recognised by neutralising antibodies relative to Alpha or Delta. It is difficult to predict how transmissible it may be at this stage.
“So far, four strains have been sequenced in a region of Sub-Saharan with reasonable surveillance in place. It may be present in other parts of Africa.
“For the time being, it should be closely monitored and analysed, but there is no reason to get overly concerned, unless it starts going up in frequency in the near future.”