South Africa’s National Institute For Communicable Diseases has confirmed that a new possibly vaccine-resistant COVID strain with 32 mutations has been detected.
Virologists are calling it the most evolved COVID strain ever, and fear it could be worse that the Delta strain.
A COVID expert says what has been dubbed the Botswana strain may have emerged from an HIV/AIDS patient.
A relatively small number of cases of the strain called B.1.1.529 have been detected following genetic sequencing collaboration between the NICD and private laboratories.
These cases have been in South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong.
Scientists are warning it could be worse than nearly anything else about.
The 32 mutations suggest it is highly transmissible and possible vaccine-resistant.
It has more alterations to its spike protein than any other variant.
Geneticist Professor Francois Balloux of University College London is quote in the Daily Mail as saying it likely emerged as a lingering infection in an immunocompromised patient, possible someone with undiagnosed HIV/AIDS.
Dr Tom Peacock a virologist at Imperial College, has described the variant’s mutations as “horrific”.
It was Peacock who first picked up on the spread of the variant.
The World Health Organisation is meeting in emergency session Friday to investigate the 100 cases of B.1.1.529 in Southern Africa.
South Africa’s Health Minister Joe Phaahla calls the variant a major threat and says it is behind the “exponential” increase in cases across the country.
There has been a quadrupling of COVID cases in South Africa to 2 500 daily. No fewer than 2 000 of these are in the heartland province of Gauteng.
,Professor Tulio de Oliviera, directing COVID surveillance in KwaZulu/Natal province says the variant has been spotted in nearly every corner of South Africa.
While he still uncertain about its impact, other scientists are saying the variant might be so evolved that it becomes unstable.
De Oliveira says it might be better at infecting vaccinated people than the world dominant strain.
In Gauteng Professor Bruce Mellado says this is the first sign of a fourth wave of COVID in South Africa
There are calls from medical experts in South Africa and Europe for the reinstatement of the so-called red list which would entail reimposing travel restrictions.