A new variant of the coronavirus has been discovered in yet another part of the world. This time the mutated virus variant has been found in Brazil. Following the discovery of the new variant, the UK has proactively taken steps by imposing travel bans on various South American countries. British transport minister Grant Shapps said the new variant is significant enough to ban flights from South American countries as a leading scientist said that the variant has been detected in Britain. The country has also imposed travel bans on Portugal, given its travel links with Brazil.
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The World Health Organization (WHO) has, however, said that it is normal for viruses to mutate, however, the more it spreads, the more opportunities it gets to change.
Here’s what we know about the coronavirus variant in Brazil:
1. The latest mutation of the virus was first detected in four people arriving in Japan’s Tokyo from Amazonas in Brazil.
2. Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID) has said that the new variant comes from the B.1.1.248 lineage of the deadly virus and has 12 mutations, including N501Y and E484K, in its spike proteins. Spike proteins in a virus act as the main enablers to enter the host cell.
3. NIID also said that the N501Y mutation is the same that was found in the UK strain of coronavirus called VOC-202012/01 implicated to increase transmissibility.
4. The E484K mutation, also found in the South African variant, is said “to be an escape mutation from a monoclonal antibody which neutralize SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19)”. Research shows that this means it may be able to escape the antibodies provided by the vaccine.
5. This particular mutation has been called “the most worrying of all” by Ravi Gupta, a professor of clinical microbiology at the University of Cambridge, according to The Independent
6.The institute also said that a variant isolate with E484K belonging to B.1.1.248 was found in Brazil on January 6, but this variant is not similar to one identified in Japan.
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7. A leading British virologist has said there are two different types of Brazilian variant and the one detected in Britain is not the cause of concern. “There are two different types of Brazilian variants and one of them has been detected (in the UK) and one of them has not,” Wendy Barclay, the head of the department of infectious disease and chairperson in influenza virology at Imperial College London, was quoted as saying by Reuters.
8. She also added, like the UK and South African variant, the new Brazilian variant is a cause ‘of concern’ and would be ‘traced very carefully’, as reported by Reuters.
9. While there is no clear evidence of a vaccine being effective against the newfound variant, Pfizer and BioNTech have said that their shots work against N501Y mutation in the UK strain, as reported by The Independent.