British experts have sounded ‘alarm bells’ on a new Covid variant that has emerged in Botswana, the most mutated version of the virus yet. So far only 10 cases of this strain have been reported, which can be named ‘Nu’. But it has already been seen in three countries suggesting that the variant is more widespread. It contains 32 mutations, many of which are highly vaccine-resistant and infectious.
The spike protein of this variant has more variation than any other variant. Professor Francois Balloux, a geneticist at University College London, said it may have emerged as a long-lasting infection in an ‘immunocompromised patient’, possibly someone with unknown AIDS. The change in the spike makes it difficult for existing vaccines to fight against the virus as they train the body to fight off the older variant of the virus.
‘Potential to be the worst ever’
Dr Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College who first noticed its spread, described the combination of mutations as ‘terrible’. He warned that B.22.214.171.1249, its scientific name, has the potential to be ‘worse’ than anything else, including Delta. Talking to DailyMail, scientists said that the high number of its mutations can work against it and make it ‘unstable’, thereby preventing it from spreading.
Where did the cases come up?
He said that there is no need to panic as no such signs have been found so far which indicate its rapid spread. So far three infections have been detected in Botswana and six in South Africa. A case has also come to the fore in Hong Kong. There are currently no cases in the UK but the UK Health Security Agency is closely monitoring the situation. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said the variant for the UK is not currently being viewed as “a major issue”.