Scientists in South Africa discovered a new strain of the coronavirus this week, which they believe is responsible for a recent increase in COVID-19 infections in Gauteng, the country’s most populated province. It’s unknown where the new form originated, but scientists in South Africa were the first to notice it, and it’s also been spotted in visitors to Hong Kong and Botswana.
Health Minister Joe Phaahla claimed the variant was connected to an “exponential surge” in instances in recent days; however, specialists are still unsure if the new strain, known as B.1.1.529, is the cause.
With slightly over 200 new confirmed cases each day in previous weeks, the number of new cases per day in South Africa increased to 2,465 on Thursday. Scientists investigated viral samples from the epidemic and identified the new type while trying to find out the main cause of a sudden spike in cases.
The World Health Organization convened a committee of specialists on Friday to evaluate the data from South Africa. The coronavirus’ spike protein appears to have a significant number of mutations — roughly 30 — which might impact it spreading easily to people.
The results thus far show the novel variation includes alterations “associated with improved transmissibility,” but “the significance of many of the mutations is yet unknown,” according to Sharon Peacock, who conducted the genetic sequencing of COVID-19 in Britain at the University of Cambridge.
The variety is “the most heavily mutated version of the virus we have seen,” according to Lawrence Young, a virologist at the University of Warwick. “It appears like it’s spreading fast,” he added, despite the fact that the mutation was only discovered in low levels in portions of South Africa.
Source: CTV News