WHO belt special meeting to discuss new Covid variant from South Africa with ‘large number of mutations’

RT: Maria Van Kerkhove, Head of AI Emerging Diseases and Zoonosis at the World Health Organization (WHO), speaks at a news conference on the situation of the coronavirus at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, January 29, 2020.

Denis Balibouse | Reuters

The World Health Organization oversees a new variant with numerous mutations in the spike protein, planning a special meeting Friday to discuss what it can mean for vaccines and treatments, officials said Thursday.

The variant, named B.1.1.529, has been detected in South Africa in small numbers, according to the WHO.

“We do not know a lot more here over. What we do know is that this variant has a large number of mutations. And the concern is that when you have so many mutations, it can have an impact on how the virus behaves,” Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on Covid-19, said in a Q&A die was livestreamed on the organization’s social media channels.

security of the new variant comes as Covid cases rise around the world on the way to the holiday season, with the WHO die hotspots reports in all regions and in the special in Europe.

South African scientists have discovered more than 30 mutations to the spike protein, the part of the virus that binds to cells in the body, South-African scientist Tulio de Oliveira said: in An media briefing hosted by the South Africa Department of Health on Thursday.

The B.1.1.529 variant contains multiple associated mutations with increased antibody resistance, which can: reduce the effectiveness of vaccines, please with mutations die the over make general more contagious, according to slides die he presented during the briefing. Other mutations in the new variant have not been seen so far, so scientists have not yet know of they are significant of will change how the virus behaves according to the presentation.

The variant has spread rapidly throughout Gauteng province, die contains the largest in the country city of Johannesburg.

“Especially when the spike happens in Gauteng, everyone travels in and out of Gauteng from all angles of South Africa. So it’s a given that in the next few days, it begin of rising positivity rate and numbers are going to happen. It’s a matter of days and weeks before we see that”, the minister from South Africa of Health said Joe Phaahla during the briefing.

The variant has also detected in Botswana and Hong Kong, Phaahla said.

“Right now, researchers are coming together to understand where these mutations are in the spike protein and the furin cleavage site, and what that could possibly mean? for our diagnostics of therapies and our vaccines,” said Van Kerkhove. She said there are less than 100 full genome sequences of the new mutation.

The virus evolution works group will decide of B.1.1.529 becomes a variant of interest of a variant of concerned, after which the WHO would give the variant a Greek name, according to Van Kerkhove.

“It is very important that there are no hasty reactions here, especially not with relation met South Africa,” Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO emergencies program, said.

Read More: World News

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