The coronavirus variant first recorded in southeast England is likely to “sweep the world” and become the most dominant global strain, the head of the United Kingdom’s genetic surveillance programme says, as concerns mount over emerging mutations of the virus.
Since being detected in September in Kent, a county known as the “garden of England” and popular with commuters because of its proximity to London, the B.1.1.7 variant has spread to more than 50 countries.
The strain caused enough concern to force a new national lockdown in the UK and has led to global panic.
Experts have said it may be up to 70 percent more infectious and about 30 percent more lethal than other variants.
Having ripped through the UK and rippled outwards, the Kent variant was now on course to “sweep the world, in all probability”, Sharon Peacock, director of the COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium, told the BBC on Thursday.
She also warned that although COVID-19 vaccines have proven effective so far against the B.1.1.7 variant and other virus strains present in the UK, further mutations may potentially undermine the shots.
“What’s concerning about this is that the 1.1.7 variant that we have had circulating for some weeks and months is beginning to mutate again and get new mutations which could affect the way that we handle the virus in terms of immunity and effectiveness of vaccines,” Peacock said.
“It’s concerning that the 1.1.7, which is more transmissible, which has swept the country, is now mutating to have this new mutation that could threaten vaccination.”
New ‘variant of concern’ detected in England
The new mutation Peacock referred to, first identified in Bristol, in southwest England, has since been designated a “variant of concern” by the UK’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group.
There are so far 21 cases of that variant, which has what is known as E484K mutation. Scientists believe the E484K mutation may help the coronavirus evade antibodies, potentially reducing the efficacy of vaccines. Read Full Article >