A new variant of the coronavirus worries scientists. “The variant can have an impact on the infectivity and effectiveness of the vaccines,” writes the microbiologist Emmanuel André. The variant B.1.1.529 occurs mainly in South Africa. The United Kingdom is canceling flights from the country as a precaution.
A new variant of the coronavirus worries scientists and politicians. The distribution of variant B.1.1.529 is closely monitored. It was first spotted in Botswana and is now increasingly popping up in South Africa. The variant could also be identified in Hong Kong. The virus had entered from South Africa. The infections are currently limited mainly to the South African province of Gauteng, but are apparently spreading quickly.
The special thing about the variant is that mutations occur in the spike proteins. This protein penetrates into human cells and attaches to them. The vaccines are designed to trigger the immune system against such spike proteins. Mutations in these proteins can make it difficult for our immune system. At least 32 mutations in the spike proteins have already been identified in the new variant, see above The guard.
The British government is not waiting and is putting six South African countries on the “Red List” from Friday. From Friday afternoon, flights from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Swaziland and Zimbabwe will be canceled. Anyone arriving from the countries on Sunday morning after 4 a.m. must be quarantined in a hotel for 10 days. The rule is reversed if it turns out that the variant is less bad than feared. Hundreds of travelers from South Africa are now being tracked down to be tested for the variant. Israel also bans air traffic from South Africa.
Belgian microbiologist Emmanuel André tweeted that the recent surge in infections in South Africa could be due to the new variant, which is likely to be dubbed the “now variant”. “This variant shows 30 mutations in the spikes that are associated with infectivity and the mechanisms that can escape our immune system. Many questions need to be answered quickly (effectiveness of the vaccine, virulence (The Power of the Virus, ed.), Infectivity ”), writes the microbiologist. “This variant reminds us that the virus can adapt incredibly well,” he concludes.
“It’s too early to say anything about the contagiousness or effectiveness of the vaccines,” South African virologist Penny Moore told the journal nature. Your lab is studying this very aspect of the virus. In two weeks’ time, they hope to have more insight into the variant’s ability to bypass our immune system.
WHO comes together
The WHO has already responded to calls from South African scientists for expert advice and will bring a group of experts to the table on Friday to discuss the “now variant”. The WHO determines whether the variant is classified as a “questionable variant”.
Viruses are constantly mutating. Scientists monitor these mutations and usually they are not a cause for concern. However, there is still a possibility that a mutation will occur that the vaccines are less able to cope with. This was the case, for example, with the delta variant currently dominant in Europe, which is to blame in the fourth wave.