A newly identified coronaviruses variant that has spread in South Africa is the most concerning British health officials have seen as it has doubled the number of mutations of the Delta variant, including some associated with evading immune response.
The variant called B. was said by the UK Health Security Agency. 529 has a spike protein that is dramatically different from the one in the original coronaviruses that COVID 19 vaccines are based on.
It has mutations that are likely to evade the immune response generated by prior infection and vaccination, and also mutations associated with increased infectivity.
The scientists said that lab studies are needed to assess the likelihood of the mutations causing a greatly reduced vaccine efficacy.
South African scientists said earlier on Thursday they had detected the new COVID 19 variant in small numbers and were working to understand its potential implications.
The variant has a very unusual constellation of mutations, which could help it evade the immune response and make it more transmissible, the scientists told reporters at a news conference.
The variant is also found in Botswana and Hong Kong.
The UK Health Security Agency said that no cases of the variant had been detected in Britain and they were in contact with South African colleagues over their data.