South Africa detects a new variant of the coronavirus with multiple mutations

Scientists and health authorities of South Africa confirmed this Thursday the detection of a new variant of the coronavirus, identified as B.1.1.529, which has multiple mutations and which has aroused “concern” among specialists, although its impact has yet to be studied.

The new variant presents “a very unusual constellation of mutations,” but its “meaning is still uncertain,” explained Professor Tulio de Oliveira, from the KwaZulu-Natal Research and Sequencing Innovation Platform (KRISP, an eastern scientific institution). South Africa)

In total, so far, cases of this variant have been confirmed in South Africa, in Hong Kong (in a traveler from the African nation) and in neighboring Botswana, according to data provided by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases of South Africa.

“The variant surprised us”

In total, B.1.1.529 has more than thirty mutations and some of them are, according to South African scientists, cause for concern due to its possible impact on transmissibility and its potential ability to evade previous immunity or protection.

“The variant surprised us, it has a great evolutionary leap, many more variants than we expected, especially after a third wave of very severe delta (variant),” Oliveira said.

“We could potentially see this variant expand very quickly,” lamented this specialist, based on data collected in the South African province of Gauteng (where Johannesburg and Pretoria are located), where in recent days the number of cases of the COVID-19 increased significantly.

South African specialists emphasized, however, that the detection of this new variant It was done “very, very early” and they were optimistic that this would help control their expansion.

In fact, the discovery of this new variant It occurred in an analysis on November 23, from samples taken between November 14 and 16 after a rise in the number of cases detected in Johannesburg and Pretoria.

“We did not want this to be around as a rumor,” stressed, for his part, the South African Minister of Health, Joe Phaahla, at the same press conference.

Oliveira also indicated that they hope that the World Health Organization (WHO) will give a new Greek letter name to this variant tomorrow, as it was done with the rest; and stressed that, although B.1.1.529 has been detected for the first time in South Africa, does not necessarily mean that it originated in this southern country.

Till the date, South Africa accumulated about 2.95 million cases of COVID-19 with about 90,000 deaths.

This southern nation is the epicenter of the pandemic within the African continent and has already suffered the effects of the discovery and expansion of another variant, the beta, during its second wave (between late 2020 and early 2021), which was later swept away by the delta variant in the third wave (mid-2021).

(With information from EFE)

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