The newly identified coronavirus variant known as B.1.1.529 has alarmed scientists around the world.
“A burning question is does it reduce vaccine effectiveness, because it has so many changes,” said Aris Katzourakis from the University of Oxford, United Kingdom.
South African scientist Tulio De Oliveira has stated in a media briefing that the emerging variant contains more than 30 mutations to the spike protein, the component of the virus that binds to cells. This is notably more than those of the delta variant which is the current dominant variant of the virus world wide.
A large number of these mutations are linked to increased antibody resistance, which may affect the virus’s behavior in regards to vaccines and transmissibility.
De Oliveira has said that in total the variant contains approximately 50 mutations.
The receptor binding domain which is the section of the virus that first makes contact with cells contains 10 mutations which is far than the 2 the delta Coronavirus variant contains which has spread swiftly around the world.
A German Scientist links the strong variant to two infected persons with different coronavirus mutations that come together to create a highly infectious super variant.
However so far, it remains uncertain if the variant is more transmissible than Delta and how it evolved.
Dr Marie Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization’s (WHO)technical lead on Covid-19 has stated that scientists “don’t know very much about this yet” and reiterated that it would take a few weeks to see how the variant reacts to existing available vaccines.
“We are in a lull” Katzourakis says, “We need to see what this virus does in terms of competitive success and whether it will increase in prevalence.”
WHO will come together on 26 November and will rename the strain. The new variant could be named Nu which is the next available letter in the Greek alphabet naming system for coronavirus variants.