A new coronavirus variant with an “extremely high number” of mutations has been detected in South Africa.
It has 32 mutations on its spike proteins, used by the virus to enter body cells, and the target of most vaccines.
A UK-based expert says.this level of mutation could have come from a single patient. with a weakened immune system possibly an untreated AIDS patient.
The new variant has some of the mutations seen in other variants.
And there are some completely new mutations too.
Richard Lessells, an infectious diseases expert in South Africa, said. "this means the virus COULD have enhanced transmissibility and the ability to evade vaccines".
So far, the variant is still mostly concentrated in one province in South Africa where 77 cases have been reported.
However, there are four cases in Botswana, and one in Hong Kong identified in a traveler returning from South Africa.
Britain has yet to detect a case, but rushed to introduce travel restrictions.
“So what we will be doing is from midday tomorrow, we will be suspending all flights from six southern African countries and we will adding those countries to the travel red list. Those countries are South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini and Zimbabwe and Botswana."
Amid much uncertainty, a WHO expert group will meet on Friday, and will likely label the strain as a variant of concern or variant of interest.
The strain is also likely to be named the Nu variant.
They will also try to measure the variant’s potential to drive new waves globally like Delta did.
One thing to consider will be how well will this variant spread in countries with much higher vaccination rates than South Africa's 24-percent.
Lee Kyung-eun, Arirang News.