A scientist works on COVID-19 samples to find variations of the virus. Jeff Pachoud/AFP via Getty Images
A new variant of the coronavirus has been reported in the US, UK, and 9 other countries.
One of its mutations could help it escape neutralizing antibodies, one expert said.
Mutations in the virus are one of the biggest obstacles to ending the pandemic.
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A new variant with three “mutations of biological significance” has been detected in 11 countries so far, according to a new academic report.
This new variant, B.1.525, has been found on several continents, academics at the University of Edinburgh noted in an assessment of the variant published on Monday.
Here is the list of countries where it has been found:
Countries differ widely in their ability to detect different variants, and it is possible the variant is in more places which have yet to notice it.
This newly-reported variant carries the E484K mutation.
This mutation was also found in the B.1.1.7 variant that originally was detected in the UK, and the B.1.351 and B.1.1.28 variants that emerged from South Africa and Brazil respectively.
The fear is that this mutation could help the vaccine escape from neutralizing antibodies.
Professor Ravi Gupta, a clinical microbiology expert from the University of Cambridge, said that apart from the E484K, the variant also carries another mutation “that likely helps it escape from our antibodies”, The Irish Times reported.
The variant carries two other mutations that are reported to have “biological significance” the report from Scotland said. These are called Q677H and F888L.
The reason why the variant is already found in so many countries is that it has been around for some time. The data the scientists are analyzing comes from samples collected earlier on.
The earliest sample in which they have detected this variant dates back to December 15, 2020.
More variants are appearing all over the world. Many of them do not significantly change how the virus behaves.
But some are potentially dangerous. They can make the virus more contagious and could also make it more lethal or better at escaping existing vaccines.
It takes time to fully research new variants, so early conclusions about what changes a variant brings are often tentative.
Seven new variants that could potentially be more contagious have been reported in the US, Insider’s Sarah Al-Arshani reported this week.
Another variant of concern was identified in Uganda on Friday, Insider’s Dr. Catherine Schuster-Bruce reported.
Read more: A bar owner found a way to save money on employee COVID tests – and customers are picking up the tab
Dr Simon Clarke, an expert in cellular microbiology from the University of Reading, said “We don’t yet know how well this variant will spread, but if it is successful it can be presumed that immunity from any vaccine or previous infection will be blunted”, The Guardian reported.
The spread of these new variants could mean that the coronavirus pandemic could be here to stay, according to a feature from Insider’s Andrew Dunn, Aria Bendix, and Hilary Brueck.
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