A genetic mutation in a new coronavirus strain recently detected in the UK was first observed in Brazil until April.
Scientists in the UK have identified a new strain of SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, which appears to be significantly more transmissible than the original, based on early evidence – although it does not appear to cause a more severe disease.
Viruses move all the time, and this new strain – nicknamed “B.1.1.7 progeny” or “VUI – 202012/01” – contains 23 separate mutations in its genetic code.
One of the mutations – known as “N501Y” – has been detected in Brazil since April, said Dr. Julian Tang, a clinical virologist at the University of Leicester, UK. Newsweek.
Subsequently, scientists observed the N501Y mutation in parts of Australia and the US earlier this year.
“The N501Y mutation was circulating independently and separately in Brazil in April 2020 and in the US and Australia in June-July 2020,” Tang said.
This mutation affects the peak proteins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which allow it to cling to human cells and break down, causing disease.
Scientists believe that this specific mutation, in combination with the others detected in the new strain, could work together to make the variant more transmissible – perhaps up to 70 percent more, according to early estimates.
“When you put different mutations together, the combination can have a different effect,” said Peter Horby, chairman of the British government’s new and emerging respiratory virus advisory group. telegraph.
“Any of these could have been seen elsewhere, like N501Y, but this constellation of multiple mutations seems to be very new.”
The new strain B.1.1.7 of the SARS-CoV-2 virus – which contains the N501Y mutation – was first detected in the south-east of England in September and is spreading rapidly in the region, with scientists estimating that it could account for 60% of the total new infections.
The strain has also been detected in other parts of the UK and a handful of cases have now been confirmed in Denmark, the Netherlands, Australia, Italy and the British overseas territory of Gibraltar – located at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula – in recent weeks. .
There are also unconfirmed reports that the new strain is present in Belgium, while it could be circulating undetected in France and South Africa, officials suggested.
More than 40 countries around the world have now introduced temporary bans on arrivals in the UK to prevent the new strain from spreading.