The World Health Organization is monitoring a new variant with multiple spikes in the spike protein, and plans to hold a special meeting on Friday to discuss what it could mean for vaccines and treatments, officials said Thursday.
The variant, called B.1.1.529, is found in small numbers in South Africa, according to the World Health Organization.
“We don’t know much about this yet. What we do know is that this variant has a large number of mutations. The concern is that when you have a lot of mutations, it can affect the way the virus behaves.” Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead for global health on Covid-19, said in a question and answer broadcast on the organization’s social media channels.
Monitoring of the new variable comes in the form of increasing COVID-19 cases around the world As the festive season approaches, the World Health Organization has reported hotspots in all regions and especially in Europe.
South African scientist Tulio de Oliveira said in a media briefing hosted by the South African Ministry of Health today, Thursday, that South African scientists have discovered more than 30 mutations in the Spike protein, which is part of the virus that spreads in the cells of the body.
The B.1.1.529 variant contains multiple mutations associated with increased antibody resistance, which may reduce the effectiveness of vaccines, along with mutations that generally make them infectious, according to slides in the abstract. The presentation said other mutations in the new variant have yet to be seen, so scientists don’t yet know if they are significant or if they will alter the behavior of the virus.
The genre soon spread across the province of Gauteng, including Johannesburg, the country’s largest city.
“Especially when the sudden peak occurs in Gauteng, everyone from all over South Africa travels to and from Gauteng. So it is recognized that in the coming days the rate of positivity begins and the numbers will start to rise. It is a matter of days and it is a matter of days,” South Africa Health Minister Jo Bhalla said during the briefing. And weeks before we see that.”
Bhalla said the variant has also been discovered in Botswana and Hong Kong.
“Currently, researchers are coming together to understand where the elevated protein mutations occur and the site of furin cleavage, and what this might mean for our diagnoses or our treatments and vaccines,” Van Kerkhove said. She said there are fewer than 100 complete genome sequences for the new mutation.
Van Kerkhove said the virus evolution working group will decide whether B.1.1.529 will be a variant of interest or concern, after which the WHO will assign the Greek name to the variant.
“It’s really important that there are no quick responses here, especially with regard to South Africa,” said Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s Emergencies Programme.
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