WHO meets today to assess “most mutated” new COVID-19 variant discovered in South Africa

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WHO meets today to assess the new variant of COVID-19 which is

The World Health Organization monitors the new Covid variant B.1.1.529, first discovered in South Africa

United Nations:

The World Health Organization is monitoring the new coronavirus variant B.1.1.529 that was first discovered in South Africa and will hold a “special meeting” today to discuss whether the heavily mutated strain will be a variant of interest or a variant of concern, a top official said. .

The latest variant is the most mutated version discovered so far. The strain, first identified in South Africa earlier this week, has already spread to neighboring countries, including Botswana, where it has reportedly been detected in fully vaccinated individuals.

The new variant has been red-flagged by researchers 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 COVID-19 symptoms.

“There are less than 100 whole genome sequences available. We do not know much about this yet. What we do know is that this variant has a large number of mutations. And the concern is that when you have so many mutations, that can have a impact on how the virus behaves “, said Maria Van Kerkhove, infection epidemiologist and covid-19 technical leader at the WHO, during a virtual question and answer session on Thursday.

She said right now that researchers were gathering to understand where these mutations and nail protein are located and what it could potentially mean for covid19 diagnostics, therapy and vaccines.

Ms Kerkhove said that WHO colleagues in South Africa plan to carry out a neutralization study that will take a few weeks “so that we can understand the impact of this variant on any vaccines.”

She emphasized that there is a lot of work going on with the new variant, and Maria Kerkhove said that the WHO’s technical advisory group for virus development is discussing this with colleagues in South Africa. “We will also meet again tomorrow. We are calling a special meeting to discuss this, not to cause an alarm, but just because we have this system in place, we can bring these researchers together and discuss what it means and can also set the timeline for how long it will take for us to get these answers, she says.

“So right now it’s a variant that is under surveillance. The TAG Virus Evolution working group will discuss whether it will be a variant of interest or a variant of concern. And if so, we will assign it is a Greek name. “But it’s something to look at,” she said.

It is “good” that these types of variants are detected because it means that there is a system in place that works, Kerkhove stated.

The WHO has said that only 27 percent of health workers in Africa have been fully vaccinated against covid-19, leaving the majority of the front-line workforce against the pandemic unprotected.

After almost four months of a sustained decline, cases of covid-19 in the general population of Africa have plateaued. For the first time since the third wave peak in August, falls in southern Africa have increased and increased by 48 percent during the week ending November 21 compared to the previous week.

To date, more than 227 million vaccine doses have been administered in Africa. In 39 countries that provided data, 3.9 million doses were given to healthcare professionals.

“With a new increase in cases across Africa after the end of the year, countries must urgently accelerate the deployment of vaccines for healthcare professionals,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s Regional Director for Africa.

According to the WHO, vaccine deliveries have increased over the past three months. Africa has received 330 million doses from COVAX Facility, African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team and bilateral agreements since February 2021.

Of these, 83 percent have been delivered since August alone. As the availability of vaccines increases, it becomes increasingly important to address bottlenecks in uptake and accelerate development.

Kerkhove said that the more covid-19 virus circulates, the more opportunities the virus has to change, the more mutations there will be.

“So, we have to slow down that transmission so that we reduce the possibility of more variants appearing. But this is one to look at. I would say we have a concern but I think you want us to have a concern, ” she said.

She noted that the WHO tracked at least 30 underlines of the highly transferable Delta variant, which is also being developed.

In view of the discovery of the new variant in South Africa, Dr Mike Ryan, Executive Director of the WHO Emergency Program, warned that there should be no knee disorders, especially in South Africa, which pick up interesting and important signals for ” as we do the correct risk assessment and risk management.

He said that in the past when some form of variant of the virus has been mentioned, “closed all borders and restricted travel”.

“It’s really important that we stay open, and we will stay focused on understanding and characterizing the problem and not punishing countries for doing outstanding scientific work and actually being open and transparent about what they see and what they ‘find.’ in Ryan.

The WHO official said that it was really important that countries such as the UK and South Africa, which openly share and are transparent about variants, were supported.

“If we are to defeat this virus, we need good information. And good information comes only when people feel they can share that information without being punished for doing so. We have not fully assessed any threat or risk associated with it. This variation remains to be seen and studies need to be done, he says.

Dr. Ryan warned people that viruses are evolving and that there are variations, but added that “it is not the end of the world and the sky is not falling.”

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)


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