A team of South African scientists announced Thursday the discovery of a new variant of Covid-19, judged “Worrying” because of its many mutations. The World Health Organization (WHO) will meet on Friday to determine how dangerous it is.
“We still don’t know a lot of things” on variant B.1.1.529, admitted on Thursday Prof. Maria Van Kerkhove, one of the specialists of the Covid-19 at theWHO, cited by CNBC. “What we do know, however, is that this variant has a large number of mutations. And our concern is that so many mutations have an impact on the way the virus behaves ”.
A concern shared by the South African team behind the discovery. “This variant is brand new. We found the first signs of it two days ago ”Tulio de Oliveira, one of the searchers, who had “Called an emergency meeting within an hour of the discovery”, specifies the Daily Maverick.
If the scientist still does not know “The impact that all mutations will have, he already knows some of them and fears that this variant is no longer contagious and better equipped to deceive the immune defenses of the human body”, adds the South African news site.
James Gallagher, the health correspondent of the BBC, spoke to a scientist who calls B.1.1.529 “Worst variant he has ever seen”, because its multiple mutations have made it “Radically different from the strain that appeared in Wuhan, China” – yet it is from the latter that the vaccines were designed.
At least 32 mutations
The German wave highlighted that the dreaded Delta Variant, which has spread like wildfire in recent months, had two mutations. The new South African variant takes into account “At month 32”, what makes it “Extremely worrying”, says Christina Pagel, a British expert on Covid-19.
“Since the start of the pandemic, a number of variants have appeared”, remind him New York Times. “One of the major concerns about these variants is that they slow down progress against the pandemic or reduce the effectiveness of vaccines”, explains the American daily.
But several scientists insist on the low incidence of B.1.1.529. Virologist Tom Peacock of Imperial College London Quoted by Arab News, thus emphasizes that the contamination figures for the new variant “Are extremely low for the moment, in a fairly well-screened region of Africa”.
In fact, only a few dozen cases have been identified so far, in South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong.
For Professor François Balloux, from University College London, the variant “Must be closely monitored and analyzed, but that there is no reason to be overly concerned unless the incidence rate increases rapidly”.
“There are a lot of things we don’t understand about this variant”, summarizes Richard Lassells, from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, in the columns of Nature. “The profile of mutations is worrying, but we must work to determine the importance of this variant and the consequences for the response to the pandemic”.
Some countries, such as the UK and Israel, preferred to apply the precautionary principle. London banned flights from South Africa and five other countries in the region on Friday, and “hundreds of people” recently returned from South Africa “Will be contacted and offered a test to prevent the new variant from entering the UK”, report The Guardian.
For its part, Israel will restrict movement in southern Africa, and “Travelers from these countries could be imposed a quarantine of at least ten days on their arrival” in the Hebrew state, specifies the site Ynetnews.