A scientist working on COVID-19 samples to find variations of the virus. Jeff Pachoud/AFP via Getty Images
A new coronavirus variant has been reported in the US, the UK, and nine other countries.
One of its mutations could help it escape neutralizing antibodies, one expert said.
Mutations are seen as one of the biggest obstacles to ending the coronavirus pandemic.
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A new coronavirus variant with three mutations “of biological significance” has been detected in 11 countries, according to a new academic report.
This new variant, B.1.525, has been found on several continents, academics at the University of Edinburgh noted in an assessment of the variant published on Monday.
Here are countries where it has been found:
Countries differ widely in their ability to track the emergence of variants, and it is possible the variant is in more places that have yet to notice it.
This newly reported variant carries a mutation known as E484K.
This mutation was also found in the fast-spreading B.1.1.7 variant, which was first detected in the UK; the B.1.351 variant, which was first found in South Africa; and the B.1.1.28 variant, which was first identified in Brazil.
The fear is that this mutation could help the vaccine escape from neutralizing antibodies.
Ravi Gupta, a clinical-microbiology expert from the University of Cambridge, said that apart from the E484K, the variant also carried another mutation “that likely helps it escape from our antibodies,” The Irish Times reported.
The variant carries two other mutations that are reported to have “biological significance,” the report from Scotland said. These are called Q677H and F888L.
The fact the variant has been found in so many countries indicates it has been around for some time. The data the scientists are analyzing comes from samples collected earlier on.
The earliest sample in which they have detected this variant dates back to December 15.
More variants are appearing all over the world. Many of them do not significantly change how the virus behaves.
But some could be dangerous. They could make the virus more contagious or more lethal or better at escaping existing vaccines.
It takes time to fully research new variants, so early conclusions about what changes a variant brings are often tentative.
Seven new variants that could be more contagious have been reported in the US, Insider’s Sarah Al-Arshani reported this week.
Another variant of concern was identified in Uganda on Friday, Insider’s Dr. Catherine Schuster-Bruce reported.
Read more: A bar owner found a way to save money on employee COVID tests – and customers are picking up the tab
“We don’t yet know how well this variant will spread, but if it is successful, it can be presumed that immunity from any vaccine or previous infection will be blunted,” Dr. Simon Clarke, an expert in cellular microbiology from the University of Reading, said of the B.1.525 variant, according to The Guardian.
Insider’s Andrew Dunn, Aria Bendix, and Hilary Brueck previously reported that the spread of these new variants could make the novel coronavirus unlikely to ever fully go away.
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