South Africa detects new variant of Covid with numerous mutations, Health News, ET HealthWorld

JOHANNESBURG: Scientists in South Africa said on Thursday they had detected a new variant of Covid-19 with a large number of mutations, blaming it for an increase in the number of infections. The number of daily infections in Africa’s most affected country has increased tenfold since the start of the month. “Unfortunately, we have detected a new variant which is a cause for concern in South Africa,” virologist Tulio de Oliveira said at a hastily called press conference. The variant, which carries the scientific lineage number B.1.1.529, “has a very high number of mutations,” he said, expressing hope that the World Health Organization would give it a Greek name. Friday. “This unfortunately causes an upsurge in infections,” he said. The variant has also been detected in Botswana and Hong Kong among travelers from South Africa, he added.

“The new variant has a constellation of new mutations,” said Tulio de Oliveira, of the Genomic Surveillance Network in South Africa, who has been tracking the spread of the delta variant in the country. “This new variant has many, many more mutations, including over 30 at the spike protein that affects transmissibility,” he said. “We can see that the variant potentially spreads very quickly. We expect to see pressure in the healthcare system in the coming days and weeks. De Oliveira said a team of scientists from seven South African universities are studying the variant. They have 100 whole genomes and expect to have many more in the next few days, he said.

WHO has said it is “closely monitoring” the reported variant and is expected to convene a technical meeting on Friday to determine whether it should be designated as a variant of “interest” or “concern.” “The first analyzes show that this variant has a large number of mutations which require and will be the subject of further study,” added the WHO. South African Health Minister Joe Phaahla said the variant was “of serious concern” and caused an “exponential” increase in reported cases, making it “a major threat”. The daily number of infections in the country reached 1,200 on Wednesday, up from 106 earlier in the month. Before the detection of the new variant, authorities had predicted that a fourth wave would hit South Africa from mid-December, carried by travel before the holiday season.

The government-run National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) said 22 positive cases of the B.1.1.529 variant have been recorded in the country as a result of genomic sequencing.

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