LONDON (Reuters) – A new variant of the rapidly spreading coronavirus in the UK is carrying mutations that could mean children are just as susceptible to it as adults – unlike previous strains, scientists said on Monday.
Informing reporters of the latest findings, scientists in the advisory group for the threat of the new and emerging respiratory virus (NERVTAG), who are following the variant, said it has quickly become the dominant strain in southern Britain and could soon do the same throughout the country. .
“We now have high confidence that this variant has a transmission advantage over other virus variants currently in the UK,” said Peter Horby, a professor of emerging infectious diseases at Oxford University and chair of NERVTAG.
“There is evidence that he has a greater tendency to infect children,” said Neil Ferguson, a professor and epidemiologist of infectious diseases at Imperial College London and also a member of NERVTAG.
“We have not established any causation in this regard, but we can see it in the data,” Ferguson said. “We’ll have to gather more data to see how it behaves in the future.”
The emergence of the mutant SARS-CoV-2 variant, which scientists say is up to 70% more transmissible than previous strains in the UK, has led some countries to close borders with the UK and pushed large areas of the country into severe restrictions on the Christmas period.
Wendy Barclay, another NERVTAG professor and virology specialist at Imperial, said mutations in the new variant include changes in the way they enter human cells, which may mean “that children are probably just as sensitive to this virus like adults ”.
“Therefore, given their mixing patterns, you would expect to see more infected children,” Barclay said.