A new variant of Covid-19 was detected in South Africa, the country most officially affected by the pandemic. According to what the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) confirmed on Thursday, scientists are working to understand the effects it could cause.
In a statement, the organism specified that 22 cases of variant B.1.1.529 were detected through genomic sequencing, but the variant caused great concern among some researchers because several of the mutations can help the virus evade immunity.
The variant has 32 mutations in the spike protein, the part of the virus that most vaccines use to prime the immune system against Covid. Mutations in the spike protein can affect the virus’s ability to infect cells and spread, but they also make it difficult for immune cells to attack the pathogen.
“Although information is limited, our experts are working overtime with all surveillance systems to understand the new variant and what its potential implications could be,” said NICD professor Adrian Puren.
South Africa was the first country to detect the beta variant last year, one of those considered “of concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO) because there is evidence that it is more transmissible and that vaccines are less effective against she.
Another variant, C.1.2, was also detected in the country earlier this year, but it did not displace the delta – the most common in that nation – and it still represents a much smaller percentage of the sequenced genomes. The first cases of this variant were collected in Botswana on November 11.