The Strategist

WHO warns of new COVID-19 variant with 'extremely high' number of mutations

11/26/2021 - 12:55

WHO has convened a meeting to discuss a new variant of the coronavirus that has already been identified in three countries. According to virologists, the strain raises serious concerns because it has an "extremely high" number of mutations and is more resistant to antibodies.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has held a meeting to discuss a new variant of the coronavirus infection that is causing grave concern. This was reported by Bloomberg, citing a WHO statement.

Specifically, a strain has been identified by scientists in South Africa under the name B.1.1529. The variant has an unusually high number of mutations and is "clearly very different" from its predecessors, Tulio de Oliveira, a bioinformatics professor who runs gene sequencing institutes at two South African universities, told at a briefing on Thursday. South African Health Minister Joe Phaahla, also speaking at the briefing, said the variant raised "serious concerns".

The new variant was first reported in Botswana, The Guardian newspaper reported. Since then, it has also been reported in South Africa and Hong Kong, in the latter case brought into the country by a South African tourist. 

As the newspaper notes, virologists are pointing out that the new strain has an "extremely high" number of mutations, which could make it more resistant to human immunity. "B.1.1529 has 32 mutations in the spike-protein, the part of the virus that most vaccines use to prepare the immune system. Mutations in the spike-protein can affect the ability of the virus to infect cells and spread, as well as making it harder for immune cells to attack the pathogen," The Guardian explains.