Scientists are concerned about a new Covid variant, known as B.1.1.529, which has an “extremely high number” of mutations that could evade immunity. Dr Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London, noted that the “incredibly high amount of spike mutations suggest this could be of real concern”. The new Covid strain has 32 mutations in the spike protein, which can influence its ability to infect cells and spread.
Furthermore, changes to the spike protein have the potential to make it harder for immune cells to attack the virus.
In a series of Tweets, Dr Peacock advised that “it very, very much should be monitored due to that horrific spike profile”.
Dr Peacock added: “This variant contains not one, but two furin cleavage site mutations – P681H (seen in Alpha, Mu, some Gamma, B.1.1.318) combined with N679K (seen in C.1.2 amongst others).
“This is the first time I’ve seen two of these mutations in a single variant.”
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Cases of B.1.1.318 have been confirmed by genomic sequencing in three countries: Botswana, South Africa, and Hong Kong.
There have been 10 cases in total, so far, with Dr Peacock hoping it is an “odd cluster”.
“I hope that’s the case,” he wrote, adding that, in the best case scenario, it may not be very transmissible.
Ravi Gupta, a professor of clinical microbiology at Cambridge University, emphasised that the mutant strain is a “significant concern based on the mutations present”.
“However, a key property of the virus that is unknown is its infectiousness,” Gupta added. “Immune escape is only part of the picture of what may happen.”
The latest Government data on Covid
The number of people testing positive for Covid is rapidly increasing. In the last week, there have been 303,504 reported infections.
That is an increase of nearly 10 percent compared to the week prior.
The number of patients being admitted to hospital, however, is still on the decline.
Thankfully, the number of patients admitted to hospital in the past week compared to the week prior has decreased by more than 10 percent.
In addition, the number of people who have died in the past 28 days of testing positive for Covid is also on the decrease.
Such positive progress could be reversed if the new mutant strain is found to be highly transmissible and reaches the UK.
To help curb the number of infections, it is important to recognise any warning signs of a Covid infection so that you can self-isolate and get tested.
Symptoms of Covid
The ZOE Covid Study highlighted the seven indicator of Covid to be aware of. The include:
- Runny nose
- Loss of smell
- Sore throat
“If you have any of these symptoms, please be cautious, get tested and avoid social contact until you know it’s not Covid,” the experts at the Zoe Covid Symptom Study asserted.
If a sneezing outburst seemingly appears out of the blue, it’s important to cover all sneezes with tissue or the inside of your elbow.
This is to help minimise the spread of the disease that is spread through sneeze droplets, until you are able to self isolate and get tested.