B.1.1.529 COVID stress found in South Africa, Botswana, Hong Kong and scientists raised alarm

Concern about a super-mutant strain of COVID has grown over the past 24 hours, with the new variant spreading in South Africa and two cases detected in Hong Kong.

Scientists are rushing to determine how contagious the virus is, whether it is more likely to evade the vaccine and whether it causes more severe illness than other versions.

“This is clearly a variant that we have to take very seriously,” said Ravindra Gupta, professor of clinical microbiology at the University of Cambridge. told the Associated Press.

Currently, the number of recorded cases of B.1.1.529 is small – about 100 cases – but health officials are concerned that it could prompt a significant increase in new cases in South Africa. The country – where less than half of all adults are vaccinated – jumped from about 200 new cases a day to a 10-fold increase on Thursday.

So far, this variant has only been identified in three places: South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong – where a traveler from South Africa tested positive while in quarantine, as well as a person in the living room hotel opposite them.

The UK has responded to news of the virus strain by suspending flights from six African countries until scientists know more about its spread and the effectiveness of vaccines. current in preventing infection.

The discovery of a new variant is not catastrophic, but the scientists say the variant has more than 30 mutations for the mutant protein, which binds the virus to human cells.

Dr Maria Van Kerkhove of the World Health Organization: “The worry is that when you have too many mutations, it can impact how the virus behaves. said on Thursday.

South African health authorities say a number of mutations have been linked to increased transmissibility and antibody resistance — and some infections in Botswana have been found in vaccinated people.

The WHO is meeting on Friday to discuss the new variant and may decide to give it a moniker from the Greek alphabet — like the Delta variant, which has caused spikes around the world for nearly a decade. this.

More work is needed to determine if B.1.1.529 is similar to Delta or to other variants that have not resulted in a sustained and widespread increase in cases.

Gupta told the AP that it’s fortunate that this variant is on global radar.

“South African scientists have done an amazing job in identifying this so quickly and capturing the world’s attention,” he said. B.1.1.529 COVID stress found in South Africa, Botswana, Hong Kong and scientists raised alarm

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