While the world is already struggling to get rid of the existing Delta variant of Covid; reports suggest that another variant has emerged and it could carry an “extremely high number” of mutations which could lead to further waves of the disease.
The B.1.1.529 variant which has 32 spike mutations in the spike protein has 10 cases in three countries.
This has been confirmed by genomic sequencing. The new strain would be named ‘Nu.’
The variant emerged in Botswana.
In the region, three cases have been sequenced.
Another six cases have been confirmed in South Africa, and one in Hong Kong.
Dr Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College, deemed the combination of mutations found in the Botswana variant as “horrific”.
He further said that the variant could be ‘worse than nearly anything else about’, including the highly transmissible Delta strain.
Taking to his Twitter, he wrote, “Worth emphasising this is at super low numbers right now in a region of Africa that is fairly well sampled; however it very very much should be monitored due to that horrific spike profile.”
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Prof Francois Balloux, the director of the UCL Genetics Institute; said a large number of mutations in the variant accumulated in a “single burst.”
He further suggested that it may have evolved during chronic infection in a person with a weakened immune system.
The person could possibly be an untreated HIV/Aids patient.
Currently, there are no cases of the B.1.1.529 variant in the UK.
However, the officials at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said that they were monitoring the variant.
Ravi Gupta, a professor of clinical microbiology at Cambridge University; after analysing the variant said that his lab found that two of the mutations on B.1.1.529 reduced antibody recognition.
Also, the mutations increased the rate of infectivity.