UK Identifies 32 Cases Of ‘Worrying’ New Virus Variant- Urges Targeted Testing.
ANOTHER coronavirus variant with a potentially worrying set of mutations has been detected in the UK and should be targeted in surge testing without delay, experts have said.
The variant, known as B1525, is the subject of a report by researchers at the University of Edinburgh, who say it has been detected through genome sequencing in 10 countries including Denmark, the US and Australia, with 32 cases found in the UK so far. The earliest sequences were dated to December and cropped up in the UK and Nigeria.
The team say the variant has similarities in its genome to the Kent variant, B117, and it contains a number of mutations that have worried researchers. The new variant includes the E484K mutation to the spike protein which is a protein found on the outside of the virus and plays an important role in helping the virus to enter cells.
Ravi Gupta, a professor of clinical microbiology at the University of Cambridge, agreed surge testing for the new variant was warranted, noting that as well as the E484K mutation it had another change “that likely helps it escape from our antibodies”.
But Prof Jonathan Stoye, a group leader at the Francis Crick Institute, said that while the variant was clearly spreading, surge testing had problems, including that those most at risk of spreading Covid may not come forward, for example, because they cannot afford financially to test positive.
Stoye said it was not surprising that the new variant contained some familiar mutations. “The minute you start putting selection pressure on this virus, you start selecting particularly for things that give it the ability to escape immune responses, and I think that is what we are seeing here,” he said.
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