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New Covid variant in S Africa has 10 mutations; 8 more than Delta

Scientists said that the new variant has at least 10 mutations, compared to two for Delta or three for Beta.

South Africa | Coronavirus | Coronavirus Vaccine


Photo: Bloomberg
Photo: Bloomberg

A new variant of Covid-19, feared to have a high amount of spike mutations unseen before, has been detected in South Africa, with authorities there confirming 22 positive cases associated with it on Thursday.

Scientists said that the new variant has at least 10 mutations, compared to two for Delta or three for Beta.

Dr Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London, had posted details of the new variant classed as B.1.1.529 on his Twitter account earlier this week, following which scientists have been weighing in on what is being considered a variant of concern – though it is yet to be formally categorised in the UK.

Scientists the world over will be watching the new variant for signs of gaining momentum or spreading more widely and rapidly. The high number of spike mutations are concerning from the point of view of both higher transmissibility and immune evasion.

“Bottom line is B.1.1.529 may already be quite widespread in SA [South Africa],” Dr Peacock tweeted on Thursday.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), the national public health institute of South Africa, confirmed that B.1.1.529 has been detected in and 22 positive cases of variant B.1.1.529 recorded following genomic sequencing collaborations.

“It is not surprising that a new variant has been detected in South Africa,” said Professor Adrian Puren, NICD Acting Executive Director.

"Although the data is limited, our experts are working overtime with all the established surveillance systems to understand the new variant and what the potential implications could be,” he said.

The South African authorities said the detected cases and percentage of people testing positive are both increasing quickly, particularly in the country’s most populated province of Gauteng, North West and Limpopo regions.

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First Published: Thu, November 25 2021. 23:11 IST