WHO calls special meeting to discuss new Covid variant with 'a large number of mutations'

3 days ago
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RT: Maria Van Kerkhove, Head a.i. Emerging Diseases and Zoonosis astatine the World Health Organization (WHO), speaks during a quality league connected the concern of the coronavirus astatine the United Nations successful Geneva, Switzerland, January 29, 2020.

Denis Balibouse | Reuters

The World Health Organization is monitoring a caller variant with galore mutations to the spike protein, scheduling a peculiar gathering Friday to sermon what it whitethorn mean for vaccines and treatments, officials said Thursday.

The variant, called B.1.1.529, has been detected successful South Africa successful tiny numbers, according to the WHO.

"We don't cognize precise overmuch astir this yet. What we bash cognize is that this variant has a ample fig of mutations. And the interest is that erstwhile you person truthful galore mutations, it tin person an interaction connected however the microorganism behaves," Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO's method pb connected Covid-19, said successful a Q&A that was livestreamed connected the organization's societal media channels.

The monitoring of the caller variant comes arsenic Covid cases surge astir the world heading into the vacation season, with the WHO reporting blistery spots successful each regions and peculiarly successful Europe.

South African scientists person detected much than 30 mutations to the spike protein, the portion of the microorganism that binds to cells successful the body, South African idiosyncratic Tulio de Oliveira said successful a media briefing hosted by the South Africa Department of Health connected Thursday.

The B.1.1.529 variant contains aggregate mutations associated with accrued antibody resistance, which whitethorn trim the effectiveness of vaccines, on with mutations that mostly marque it much contagious, according to slides helium presented astatine the briefing. Other mutations successful the caller variant haven't been seen until now, truthful scientists don't yet cognize whether they are important oregon volition alteration however the microorganism behaves, according to the presentation.

The variant has besides been detected successful Botswana and Hong Kong, Joe Phaahla, curate of wellness of South Africa, said during the briefing. 

"Right now, researchers are getting unneurotic to recognize wherever these mutations are successful the spike macromolecule and the furin cleavage site, and what that perchance whitethorn mean for our diagnostics oregon therapeutics and our vaccines," Van Kerkhove said. She said determination are less than 100 afloat genome sequences of the caller mutation.

The microorganism improvement moving radical volition determine if B.1.1.529 volition go a variant of involvement oregon a variant of concern, aft which the WHO would delegate the variant a Greek name, Van Kerkhove said.

"It's truly important that determination are nary knee-jerk responses here, particularly with narration to South Africa," Dr. Mike Ryan, enforcement manager of the WHO's emergencies program, said.