A new variant of the coronavirus has been identified in Botswana, which has managed to make its way to South Africa and Hong Kong. The multitude of its spines and the potential to mutate cause serious concern to scientists at Imperial College London, reports Australian news.com.au on Thursday.
Variant B.1.1529, which is likely to be called the Nu strain, was detected on November 11 in Botswana. Three days later, its presence was confirmed in a patient in South Africa. He was also identified in the 36-year-old who returned from South Africa to Hong Kong on November 13.
“The huge number of virus spines suggests that the new strain could pose a serious problem,” said Dr. Tom Peacock of the Imperial Colleague of London, adding that “B.1.1529 can bypass most of the known monoclonal antibodies, representing the potential of this virus to cause new epidemics in all over the world, thanks to the body’s defenses eluding them. “
A hitherto unknown variant of the coronavirus “may have evolved during the chronic infection of an immunocompromised person, possibly in an untreated HIV / AIDS patient,” notes Prof. Francois Balloux, director of the Institute of Genetics at University College London, who shares his insights with the Science Media Center.
Experts, while expressing high concern about the potential of the new strain to undergo further mutations, note that “it is difficult to predict to what extent B.1.1529 will be able to transmit”. “It may be so unusual in its internal construction that it will turn out to be not very portable” – comments Dr. Peacock, who also notes on Twitter that “this variant of the virus should be monitored with exceptional attention”.
The researchers point out that the new threat is looming at a time when many countries are opening their borders to international travelers, and the World Health Organization reports that Europe is “in the grip” of a pandemic. WHO forecasts predict the death of another 2.2 million people suffering from Covid-19 by March 1, 2022. (PAP)
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