WHO calls special meeting to discuss new Covid variant from South Africa with ‘a large number of mutations’

RT: Maria Van Kerkhove, Head a.i. Emerging Diseases and Zoonosis on the World Health Organization (WHO), speaks throughout a information convention on the scenario of the coronavirus on the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, January 29, 2020.

Denis Balibouse | Reuters

The World Health Organization is monitoring a new variant with quite a few mutations to the spike protein, scheduling a special meeting Friday to discuss what it might imply for vaccines and coverings, officers mentioned Thursday.

The variant, known as B.1.1.529, has been detected in South Africa in small numbers, in accordance to the WHO.

“We do not know very a lot about this but. What we do know is that this variant has a large number of mutations. And the priority is that when you have got so many mutations, it could possibly have an effect on how the virus behaves,” Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on Covid-19, mentioned in a Q&A that was livestreamed on the group’s social media channels.

The monitoring of the new variant comes as Covid cases surge around the world heading into the vacation season, with the WHO reporting sizzling spots in all areas and notably in Europe.

South African scientists have detected greater than 30 mutations to the spike protein, the half of the virus that binds to cells within the physique, South African scientist Tulio de Oliveira mentioned in a media briefing hosted by the South Africa Department of Health on Thursday.

The B.1.1.529 variant accommodates a number of mutations related with elevated antibody resistance, which can scale back the effectiveness of vaccines, alongside with mutations that typically make it extra contagious, in accordance to slides he offered on the briefing. Other mutations within the new variant have not been seen till now, so scientists do not but know whether or not they’re important or will change how the virus behaves, in accordance to the presentation.

The variant has additionally been detected in Botswana and Hong Kong, Joe Phaahla, minister of well being of South Africa, mentioned throughout the briefing. 

“Right now, researchers are getting collectively to perceive the place these mutations are within the spike protein and the furin cleavage website, and what that doubtlessly might imply for our diagnostics or therapeutics and our vaccines,” Van Kerkhove mentioned. She mentioned there are fewer than 100 full genome sequences of the new mutation.

The virus evolution working group will resolve if B.1.1.529 will develop into a variant of curiosity or a variant of concern, after which the WHO would assign the variant a Greek identify, Van Kerkhove mentioned.

“It’s actually vital that there are not any knee-jerk responses right here, particularly with relation to South Africa,” Dr. Mike Ryan, govt director of the WHO’s emergencies program, mentioned.

Source link