Scientists and health authorities in South Africa confirmed this Thursday the detection of a new variant of the coronavirus, identified as B.1.1.529 and called «Botswana variant«, Which has multiple mutations and which aroused concern among specialists, although its impact has yet to be studied.
The new variant features “a very unusual constellation of mutations”, but its “meaning is still uncertain”, explained in a virtual press conference Professor Tulio de Oliveira, from the KwaZulu-Natal Research and Sequencing Innovation Platform (KRISP, a scientific institution in eastern South Africa), collects Infobae.
BREAKING NEWS: We confirm that through collaborative efforts with private laboratories and the NGS-SA members, a new COVID-19 variant, B.1.1.529, has been detected in South Africa. Read more here https://t.co/0ht7nmMkJg
– NICD (@nicd_sa) November 25, 2021
What is the new mutation like?
The variant B.1.1.529 has 32 mutations in the spike protein, many of which suggest that it is highly transmissible and resistant to vaccines; and it has more alterations in its peak protein than any other variant.
The spike protein is the part of the virus that most vaccines use to prime the immune system against Covid-19.
Mutations in the spike protein can affect the virus’s ability to infect cells and spread. But they also make it harder for immune cells to attack the pathogen.
How many cases of the Bostwana variant have been detected?
In total, so far, cases of this variant have been confirmed in South Africa, on Hong Kong (in a traveler from the African nation) and in the neighboring Botswana. This, according to data provided by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases of South Africa.
La B.1.1.529 has more than thirty mutations and some of them are, according to South African scientists, cause for concern due to their possible impact on transmissibility and their potential ability to evade immunity or previous protection.
WHO studies the new variant
Experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) they are analyzing the new variant together with South African colleagues.
“It is a variant to follow, and it is worrying”, highlighted in a meeting with Internet users the head of the WHO anticovid technical unit, María Van Kerkhove; who pointed out, however, that the discovery shows that the alert level of the laboratories to Covid-19 is still high.