5 things to know about new coronavirus variant B.1.1.529

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10 things to know about new coronavirus variant with multiple mutations

New Delhi:
A new variant of the coronavirus – B.1.1.529 – has been red-flagged by researchers globally due to an alarmingly large number of nail mutations that can make the virus more resistant to vaccines, increase its transmission capacity and lead to more serious symptoms.

Here are 10 things to know about the new COVID-19 variant:

  1. The B.1.1.529 variant has a total of 50 mutations, including more than 30 on the nail protein alone. The nail protein is the target of most current COVID-19 vaccines and is what the virus uses to unlock access to our body’s cells. Researchers are still trying to confirm whether this makes it more transmissible or more deadly than previous variants.

  2. There are also 10 mutations on the receptor binding domain portion of the variant, compared to two for the Delta variant. The Delta Plus variant mutated from the latter was characterized by the K417N mutation on the nail protein; this mutation has been linked to immune escape, but it is unclear if this is among the mutations in B.1.1.529.

  3. There is speculation about the origin of the variant, but it may have developed from a single patient. Francois Balloux, director of the London-based UCL Genetics Institute, has suggested that it may have come from a chronic infection in an immunocompromised person, who may be an untreated HIV / AIDS patient.

  4. The strain, first identified in South Africa this week, has spread to nearby countries, including Botswana, where fully vaccinated people have been infected. In South Africa, over 100 cases have been linked to this variant, with several more in Botswana.

  5. Two cases have been discovered in Hong Kong – where travelers from parts of southern Africa had been quarantined in separate rooms. Their samples produced “very high” amounts of virus, epidemiologist Dr Eric Feigl-Ding tweeted this morning. “PCR Ct values ​​of 18 and 19 … insanely high given that they were negative on the latest PCR tests,” he said.

  6. Because the patients were in separate rooms, there is concern that this variant is airborne. “… looks like vaccine evasion can be real with this variant … and yes, it’s very airborne. Hotel guests were in different rooms across the corridor. Environmental samples found the virus in 25 of 87 swab samples across both rooms,” Dr. Feigl-Ding tweeted.

  7. On Thursday, India demanded a rigorous screening of passengers from these countries. “This variant … has serious consequences for public health in view of the recent easing of visa restrictions and the opening up of international travel,” the ministry said.

  8. The Indian stock index fell on Friday with the benchmark index S&P BSE Sensex drops more than 1,400 points and the Nifty 50 index falls below 17,100 on weak global signals after investor sentiment deteriorated through the discovery of the B.1.1.529 variant.

  9. Britain has stopped flights from South Africa, Botswana and four other African countries. Australia has said it could tighten the rules for incoming travelers as well.

  10. The World Health Organization has called for caution in the initial stages of dealing with this variant; more research needs to be done to understand how B.1.1.529 behaves, said the global health agency. Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical leader for covid-19, emphasized the importance of ensuring complete vaccination.

With input from AFP, Bloomberg, Reuters

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