New COVID-19 Variant With ‘Unusual’ Mutations Detected In These Countries

Johannesburg: A new COVID-19 variant with ‘unusual’ mutations has been detected, forcing the World Health Organization (WHO) to sit up and take note.

The new variant, called B.1.1529, has been circulating in South Africa and Botswana. According to a statement in the Science Media Centre, B.1.1529 variant carries an unusually large number of mutations.

Francois Balloux, director of UCL Genetics Institute, said it’s likely to have evolved during a chronic infection of an immuno-compromised person, possibly in an untreated HIV/AIDS patient.

“It is difficult to predict how transmissible it may be at this stage. For the time being, it should be closely monitored and analysed, but there is no reason to get overly concerned, unless it starts going up in frequency in the near future,” Balloux said.

World Health Organization (WHO) officials met on Thursday to discuss the new variant.

B.1.1529 variant has been found in 22 cases in South Africa, the country’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) stated.

“It is not surprising that a new variant has been detected in South Africa. Although the data are limited, our experts are working overtime with all the established surveillance systems to understand the new variant and what the potential implications could be. Developments are occurring at a rapid pace and the public has our assurance that we will keep them up to date,” NICD Acting Executive Director Adrian Puren said.

The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention will meet South African health officials next week to discuss the new variant.

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