New Variant of SARS-CoV-2 Spreading Fast

A coronavirus variant called B1525 has become one of the most recent additions to the global variant watch list and has been included in the list of variants under investigation by Public Health England.

Scientists are keeping a watchful eye on this variant because it has several mutations in the gene that makes the spike protein – the part of the virus that latches onto human cells. These changes include the presence of the increasingly well-known mutation called E484K, which allows the virus to partly evade the immune system, and is found in the variants first identified in South Africa (B1351) and Brazil (P1).

While there is no information on what this means for B1525, there is growing evidence that E484K may impact how effective COVID vaccines are. But there is no suggestion so far that B1525 is more transmissible or that it leads to more severe disease.

There are other mutations in B1525 that are also noteworthy, such as Q677H. Scientists have repeatedly detected this changeat least six times in different lineages in the US, suggesting that it gives the virus an advantage, although the nature of any benefit has not been identified yet.

The B1525 variant also has several deletions – where “letters” (G, U, A and C) of the virus’s RNA are missing from its genome. These letters are also missing in B117, the variant first detected in Kent, England. Research by Ravindra Gupta, a clinical microbiologist at the University of Cambridge, found that these deletions may increase infectivity twofold in laboratory experiments.

As with many variants, B1525 appears to have emerged quite recently. The earliest example in the shared global database of coronavirus genomes, called Gisaid, dates from 15 December 2020. It was identified in a person in the UK. And like many variants, B1525 had already travelled the world before it came to global attention. A total of 204 sequences of this variant in Gisaid can be traced to 18 countries as of 20 February 2021.

Source: https://theconversation.com/

Simple finger-prick tests Coronavirus

Millions of finger-prick coronavirus home-tests could be ready to order on Amazon or pick up in Boots in a matter of days, according to Public Health England (PHE). Sharon Peacock, of PHE‘s National Infection Service, said 3.5million antibody tests the Government has bought will be available in the ‘near future‘.

Asked whether these could be within several days, she told the House of Commons Science and Technology Committeeabsolutely’. However, Professor Peacock did not explain if the test would be free on the NHS or if suspected patients would have to pay. Health chiefs say the tests – which scour a sample of blood for antibodies made by the body to fight the virus – will initially be available for frontline healthcare staff.

The Government’s aim is to get thousands of doctors, nurses and paramedics who have had to self isolate at home as a precaution back to workPHE has not revealed who is manufacturing the tests, which detect if someone has had the infection previously and is now immune.