Another new coronavirus variant have been detected in the UK which has a mutation that may help it escape immunity.
There have so far been 16 cases of the new ‘Variant Under Investigation’, temporarily named B1.1.318, Public Health England revealed today.
The new variant was first detected on February 15 through genomic sequencing and officials began monitoring its spread on February 24.
It has the E484K mutation on its spike protein which is also found in the Brazilian and South African variants. Those two strains are also circulating in the UK.
The alteration changes the way the virus looks to the immune system, helping it to dodge antibodies. But antibodies are just one part of what gives Covid survivors and vaccinated patients protection against reinfection.
White blood cells play a crucial role in fighting off the virus and scientists say they are ‘not substantially affected’ by current mutated variants.
It means the current crop of vaccines should still be highly effective against strains with the E484K mutation.
PHE said it does not know if it spawned in the UK or was imported from another country. The agency now has four variants ‘under investigation’ and four more which it describes as ‘variants of concern’.
They are the current dominant Kent strain, two imported from Brazil, the South African variant and one which is thought to have originated in Nigeria, as well as two others which cropped up in Bristol and Liverpool.
The new strain announced today does not feature the N501Y mutation that makes the virus spread more quickly.
Scienitsts have said previously that variants without this key change are unlikely to overtake the Kent strain and become dominant anytime soon because they won’t have an ‘evolutionary edge’ over it.
This N501Y mutation, which is found on the Kent, South African and Brazilian variants, means it can bind to cells more easily and is more transmissible.
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Connor Boyd