New Covid Variant B.1.1.529 Detected in Southern Africa; Scientists Warn of its ‘Horrific Spike Profile’

As people around the world continue to bear the brunt of the Covid-19 Pandemic, the discovery of a new variant with over 30 spike mutations in South Africa has left many scientists feeling concerned.

The news about the new variant let lose came to the fore on November 23 when Dr. Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London, posted the details of the variant on social media, noting that the “incredibly high amount of spike mutations suggest this could be of real concern (predicted escape from most known monoclonal antibodies)”.

Taking to Twitter, Dr. Tom Peacock said that the variant should be monitored due to its “horrific spike profile”.

The B.1.1.529, the variant was first spotted in Botswana and the other circulating countries are Hong Kong and South Africa. As per reports, only 10 cases have been confirmed by genomic sequencing.

The mutation P681H seen in the new variant has also been reported in Alpha, Mu, some Gamma, and B.1.1.318 variants. The new variant also carries the N679K mutation which has been reported in many other variants.

The new variant also carries a mutation called N501Y which has been reported in other variants of concern. Studies have shown that this mutation helps the variant be more transmissible. It also allows the virus to readily bind to the human angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptors.

It also carries the P681H mutation, one of the commonly identified spike mutations in SARS CoV-2, which enhances the transmissibility of the virus. The D614G mutation which has been reported to increase virus infectivity was also seen in the new variant.

At present,  only four variants of the coronavirus are designated as variants of concern namely Alpha (lineage B.1.1.7, the so-called ‘UK variant’), Beta (lineage B.1.351, the so-called ‘South Africa variant’), Gamma (lineage P.1, the so-called ‘Brazil variant’) and Delta (lineage B.1.617.2).

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