Detecting new COVID-19 variant capable of 'evading' immunity

Dutch scientists say the new COVID-19 variant B.1.1.523 has signs of immunity to 'evade'.

Dutch scientists say they have discovered a new variant of SARS-CoV-2, according to a new study published on the bioRxiv platform.

BioRxiv is a platform for publishing unreviewed preliminary scientific reports.

According to research published in mid-September, the new variant was identified by Dutch scientists as B.1.1.523. It was first recognized as a variant on July 14, 2021.

According to the Global Initiative for the Sharing of Whole Influenza Data (GISAID), a total of 533 cases of B.1.1.523 have been recorded worldwide, as of 19 August 2021.

Illustration of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Illustration of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Several cases of this COVID-19 variant have been reported in Russia, Germany, the US and Australia, scientists from Maastricht University Medical Center, Maastricht city, Netherlands, write in the study.

According to gene sequence monitoring data, the first cases associated with variant B.1.1.523 were reported in February 2021. The frequency of this variant increased in May 2021 and prevalence rates its variable decreased in June 2021. The scientists observed that this variant did not infect any particular age group.

In the latest study, Dutch researchers explain that it is not easy to pinpoint the origin of this variant. But after using genome sequencing to build a model, they found all cases came from a 'clade'. The results suggest that the origin of this variant may be in Russia, and it has been recorded for the first time in Moscow.

Why are scientists concerned about this variation?

Experts from the Maastricht University Medical Center in the Netherlands say that variant B.1.1.523 has a novel combination of mutations related to the spike protein region. These mutations have been detected in other Variant of Concern (VoC) variants.

Many of these mutations are related to the immune system's ability to evade protection. One of them is the E484K mutation - present in variants B.1.351 and P.1, both of which are strongly associated with reduced vaccine effectiveness.

These findings are important because the new variant could challenge the effectiveness of existing vaccines, the researchers wrote. More studies are needed to determine the transmissibility of this variant, and this will aid in the development of strategies to prevent further spread of this strain.

Google Tech News - News-Medical

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