The new virus variant B.1.1.529, which was first discovered in Botswana on 11 November, is raising concerns about the world’s contagion situation. Several researchers now warn that the variant has an unusually high ability to mutate and that it can penetrate the body’s built-up immune system, reports The Guardian.
On Friday morning, it became clear that the European Commission is proposing to stop flights from six African countries, as a result of the discovery of the virus variant. It is currently unclear how Norway will respond to this.
The new variant of the delta virus, which was detected in three people in Botswana, has now spread to South Africa and Hong Kong, where a total of seven people have been diagnosed with the infection. It must have been a traveler from South Africa who spread the virus to Asia.
Critical of FHI
High corona infection and exploding capacity in hospitals have created problems in several European countries recently, and the authorities in more and more countries are tightening their coronary restrictions again. Including Denmark and Austria.
The infection is also rising in Norway with ever new daily records and overcrowded intensive care units.
The WHO has warned of rising infection on the continent. Professor of microbiology and infection control at the University of Southeast Norway, Jörn Klein, is critical of the fact that FHI does not take warnings from the WHO more seriously.
– In the discussion about proportionality, the current government seems to let freedom to full Christmas dinners weigh heavier than measures to protect against serious illness of Covid-19, Klein says to TV 2.
– WHO is already sounding the alarm about the Covid situation in Europe, but it sometimes seems that FHI in particular is not listening very well.
He is concerned about the capacity of Norwegian hospitals if another corona variant spreads to Norway.
– The situation in Norway has now again developed to become very serious, even after a large part of the population has been vaccinated, the professor says.
He hopes the government will introduce new corona measures to reduce the number of infections.
– The pandemic is only over when it is over in the whole world. We already hear that the new variety has been found in parts of Asia and can spread all over the world. Only a few proven cases have been understood, but that was also the case with Delta in the beginning, he emphasizes.
Virologists in South Africa, where the B.1.1.529 variant has been detected, are already worried about what the variant will mean for the world, especially given the increase in infection in the Gauteng urban area near the capital Pretoria and the city of Johannesburg.
Professor of clinical microbiology Ravi Gupta at Cambridge University has researched the new variant in his laboratory in England. He tells The Guardian that two of the possible mutations in the B.1.1.529 virus were more contagious and reduced the body’s detection of antibodies.
“It certainly seems like a significant concern based on the mutations that are present,” he told the newspaper.
– But an important property of the virus, which is still unknown, is the infectivity, since it was what primarily drove the spread of the delta variant. Immune flight is just one of the risks we face.
Is on duty
Nevertheless, much is still unknown about the variant’s infectivity, and the National Institute of Public Health (NIPH) says they are not worried at the moment.
– We still know very little about the new variant and so far it has been proven in very few cases. Nevertheless, it has been proven in various places in South Africa and this may indicate that it is more widespread there than we are aware of now, says section leader Karoline Bragstad in FHI in an e-mail to TV 2.
She points out that despite the fact that the variant has very many mutation changes, this does not necessarily mean that it is more contagious.
– The fact that the virus has so many changes does not necessarily mean that the virus will have an infectious advantage, perhaps on the contrary. Sometimes completely unique versions of the virus appear without it becoming more important. But this is definitely one that it is important to follow in the future, she says.
– In recent times, a new variant B.1.640 has also appeared, which also seems to have its origins in Africa. Thus, there is probably more than just delta virus out there in the big world, but what significance this will have is too early to say anything about. So we are not worried at the moment, but extra on guard.
Not worse than the delta variant
Senior researcher Gunnveig Grødeland at Oslo University Hospital does not believe that the new variant of the delta virus is more dangerous than the world has faced in recent months. She believes the focus should rather be on sharing vaccine doses with countries with few vaccinated.
– This is a delta variant and we have many of them so far. What we do know is that all delta variants are associated with a reduced effect against infection and mild disease, but that the vaccine has maintained a full effect against serious illness and death. That will be the probable scenario for this variant as well, says Grødeland to TV 2.
Researchers do not yet have the definitive answer as to whether the virus variant causes more serious disease or whether it avoids immunity better than other coronary variants.
– I’m not worried. I’m more worried about something we’ve not seen before. The vaccine provides very good protection against the variants we have seen so far, she emphasizes.
– When the virus multiplies, reading errors can occur which cause mutations in the genetic material. It causes the change. So how the muting ability of this virus is different from other variants I struggle to see.
According to Fancois Balloux, director of the UCL Genetics Institute in London, the number of mutations in the variant may have been collected in “a single outbreak”, and developed during a chronic infection in a person with a weakened immune system, possibly an untreated HIV / AIDS patient, writes The Guardian.