A lab headed by Penny Moore, a virologist from the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, is analysing B.1.1.529, and whether it can dodge immunity from recently manufactured vaccines by Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna to name a few.
“We’re flying at warp speed,” Ms Moore told Nature.com when asked about the early stages of the research progress.
“There are anecdotal reports of reinfections and cases in vaccinated individuals, but at this stage it’s too early to tell anything.”
Scientists and the World Health Organisation are trying to understand the properties of a new coronavirus strain they fear could be more infectious and evade vaccines. Picture: Alet Pretorius/Gallo Images via Getty Images
Infectious disease expert, Richard Lessells, a physician from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa said he was concerned about the new variant and hinted it could change the current response to the pandemic.
“There’s a lot we don’t understand about this variant,” he said during a media press conference on Thursday.
“The mutation profile gives us concern, but now we need to do the work to understand the significance of this variants and what it means for the response to the pandemic.”
Experts are trying to understand the properties within the new strain, such as whether it could evade the body’s immune response triggered by vaccines and the severity of the variant compared to previous ones.
Stream the latest news on COVID-19 with Flash. Stream more than 20 global & local news sources. New to Flash? Try 14 days free now
A virologist and his team found the variant was responsible for all of 77 of the virus samples collected from Gauteng collected over an eight day period between November 12 to 20. Picture: Luke Walker/Getty Images
Researchers have identified at least 30 changes to the spike protein of B.1.1.529 following genome sequencing results in Botswana, where the strain reportedly originated from.
Similar changes have been discovered in other variants such as Alpha and the current Delta strain ravaging the world and can be linked heightened infectivity and the ability to evade infection-blocking antibodies.
Health officials are concerned for the province of Gauteng in South Africa with cases rising sharply, particularly among young children in schools, in November.
Virologist Tulio de Oliveira and his team found the variant was responsible for all of 77 of the virus samples collected from Gauteng collected over an eight day period between November 12 to 20.
Hundreds more samples are currently going through analysis.
WHO: Europe the ‘epicentre’ of COVID-19
WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, said the mutations can impact how the virus behaves.
“We don’t know very much about this yet. What we do know is that this variant has a large number of mutations,” she said during a Q&A livestream.
Executive Director of WHO’s emergencies programs warned there should not be a “knee-jerk reaction” until more is known about the variant.
Health officials are concerned for the province of Gauteng in South Africa with cases rising sharply, particularly among young children in schools, in November. Picture: Roger Sedres/Gallo Images via Getty Images
Mr Lessells said the recent findings causes alarm and suggested the variant could already be widely circulating South Africa.
The first case was detected in Botswana where it then spread to South Africa.
Six infections were originally found but it has since almost quadrupled to 22 cases.
A traveller from Hong Kong tested positive back at home to the new variant after visiting South Africa for three weeks. 
More than 10,000 active COVID-19 cases currently in Victoria
Australia is only slowly recovering from the pandemic following the Delta outbreak in late June in New South Wales where a driver contracted the virus from transporting flight crew.
It led to days of thousands of cases for close to two months and the infection spreading to other parts of the country.
Victoria is still reporting more than 1,000 cases a day.
An uptake in the coronavirus vaccine over the past  four months has helped reduce transmission and deaths.

Recommended Posts

No comment yet, add your voice below!


Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *