10 things to know about the new coronavirus variant with multiple mutations

New Delhi:
A new coronavirus variant – B.1.1.529 – has been red-flagged by scientists globally as containing an alarmingly high number of spike mutations that could make the virus more resistant to vaccines, increase transmittance and can cause more severe symptoms.

Here are 10 things to know about the new COVID-19 version:

  1. b. The version has 50 mutations in total, including over 30 mutations on the spike protein alone. The spike protein is the target of most current COVID-19 vaccines and is what the virus uses to reach our body’s cells.

  2. There are also 10 mutations on the receptor binding domain portion of the variant, compared to two for the delta variant. The delta plus variant that mutated from the latter was characterized by a K417N mutation on the spike protein; This mutation has been linked to immune escape, but it is not clear whether it is among the mutations in B.

  3. François Balloux, director of the UCL Genetics Institute, said this new variant may have developed from a single patient – possibly during a chronic infection with an immune-compromised individual (possibly in an untreated HIV/AIDS patient).

  4. First identified in South Africa this week, the strain has spread to nearby countries, including Botswana, where fully vaccinated people have become infected. More than 100 cases have been linked to this in South Africa, with many more in Botswana.

  5. Two cases have also been detected in Hong Kong – where two travelers arriving from parts of southern Africa were kept in separate rooms in accordance with local laws.

  6. Samples from two infected people in Hong Kong returned “very high” viral loads, epidemiologist Dr Eric Feigl-Ding tweeted this morning. “The PCR Ct values ​​of 18 and 19 … are very high, given that they were negative on the recent PCR tests,” he said.

  7. Most worryingly, the patients were in different rooms, which suggests that this variant is airborne. “… looks like vaccine theft with this type might be real… and yes, it’s very airborne. Hotel guests were in different rooms in the hallway. Environmental samples included 87 in both rooms.” Found virus in 25 swabs,” Dr Feigl-Ding tweeted.

  8. On Thursday, India called for strict screening of travelers from these countries. “This variant is reported to have a significantly higher number of mutations, and thus, has serious public health implications for the country in view of the recent relaxation of visa restrictions and opening up of international travel,” the ministry said.

  9. The United Kingdom has moved swiftly to suspend flights to and from six African countries, including South Africa and Botswana.

  10. The World Health Organization has thus called for caution in the initial stages of dealing with it; The global health body said more research needs to be done to understand how B.1.1.529 behaves. Dr Maria van Kerkhove, WHO’s COVID-19 technical chief, underscored the importance of ensuring full immunization.

With input from AFP, Bloomberg, Reuters