UK flags concern over newly identified coronavirus variant

The new variant found in South Africa has a spike protein that was different to the one the Covid-19 vaccines are based on



A person walks past the National Covid Memorial Wall on the south bank of the river Thames, in London. — AP
A person walks past the National Covid Memorial Wall on the south bank of the river Thames, in London. — AP

By Reuters

Published: Fri 26 Nov 2021, 12:56 AM

A newly identified coronavirus variant that has spread in South Africa is the most concerning that British health officials have seen as it has double the number of mutations of the Delta variant including some associated with evading immune response.

The UK Health Security Agency said that the variant — called B.1.1.529 — has a spike protein that was dramatically different to the one in the original coronavirus that Covid-19 vaccines are based on.

It has mutations that are likely to evade the immune response generated both by prior infection and vaccination, and also mutations associated with increased infectivity.

Lab studies are needed to assess the likelihood of the mutations resulting in greatly reduced vaccine efficacy, scientists said.

Earlier on Thursday, South African scientists said they had detected the new Covid-19 variant in small numbers and were working to understand its potential implications.

The variant has a “very unusual constellation” of mutations, which are concerning because they could help it evade the body’s immune response and make it more transmissible, the scientists told reporters at a news conference.

The variant has also been found in Botswana and Hong Kong.

The UK Health Security Agency said that no cases of the variant had been detected in Britain and they were in contact with South African colleagues over their data.


More news from coronavirus