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COVID-19 variant from South Africa declared the most ‘mutated’ virus, raising serious concerns

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coronavirus covid 19

By Jenny Goldsberry

South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases found that the new COVID variant C.1.2 has “mutated substantially.” KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform also assisted in the research, according to the report.

Scientists write this variant appears to be more dangerous than previous variants, as stated in the report.

While 85% of cases came from South Africa, 5% were from the United Kingdom, 2% from New Zealand, 2% Switzerland and 2% from China. Small percentages also came out of Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mauritius and Portugal.

It is not the newest variant, but it was first discovered in May of this year. Since then, it’s been found to mutate 41.8 per year at nearly twice as fast as the current global mutation rate of the other variants.

“While these mutations are not characteristic of current VOCs/VOIs, they have been associated with escape from certain class 3 neutralising antibodies,” stated the authors of the study.

Its mutations “have been associated with escape from certain class 3 neutralizing antibodies,” the report reads. This included antibodies found in those that contracted the Alpha and Beta variants. Yet, they are still assessing if this variant can similarly neutralize the vaccine.

We have identified a new SARS-CoV-2 variant assigned to the PANGO lineage C.1.2. This variant has been detected throughout the third wave of infections in South Africa from May 2021 onwards and has been detected in seven other countries within Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania. The identification of novel SARS-CoV-2 variants is commonly associated with new waves of infection. Like several other VOCs, C.1.2 has accumulated a number of substitutions beyond what would be expected from the background SARS-CoV-2 evolutionary rate. This suggests the likelihood that these mutations arose during a period of accelerated evolution in a single individual with prolonged viral infection through virus-host co-evolution1921. Deletions within the NTD (like Y144del, seen in C.1.2 and other VOCs) have been evident in cases of prolonged infection, further supporting this hypothesis2224. C.1.2 contains many mutations that have been identified in all four VOCs (Alpha, Beta, Delta and Gamma) and three VOIs (Kappa, Eta and Lambda) as well as additional mutations within the NTD (C136F), RBD (Y449H), and adjacent to the furin cleavage site (N679K). Many of the shared mutations have been associated with improved ACE2 binding (N501Y)2529 or furin cleavage (H655Y and P681H/R)3032, and reduced neutralization activity (particularly Y144del, 242-244del, and E484K)17,3339, providing sufficient cause for concern of continued transmission of this variant. Future work aims to determine the functional impact of these mutations, which likely include neutralizing antibody escape, and to investigate whether their combination confers a replicative fitness advantage over the Delta variant.

Read the report here.

Now the report awaits peer review.

You can follow Jenny Goldsberry on Twitter @jennyjournalism.

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COVID-19

California Tells COVID-Positive Medical Staff to ‘Return to Work Immediately, Without Isolation or Testing’

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Screen Shot 2021 02 04 at 3.19.19 PM

The Los Angeles Times came out with a piece Wednesday titled, “With hospitals reeling, California tells COVID-positive medical workers to stay on the job.” With more and more patients arriving to the emergency room every day, forced to wait entire days to be seen, there is no one to answer the phones and no one to take out the trash.

Due to the Omicron-fueled surge, healthcare workers are calling out sick in droves, and has “left the medical infrastructure on edge.” As a result, California, and other state’s officials are examining a “Sweeping policy change that allows asymptomatic healthcare workers who have tested positive for the coronavirus to return to work immediately, without isolation or testing.”

Currently, the policy will remain in place through February 1st to avoid staffing shortages. The California Department of Public Health said because hospitals are reaching capacity, providing essential care is extremely compromised.

“Given those conditions, the department is providing temporary flexibility to help hospitals and emergency services providers respond to an unprecedented surge and staffing shortages” said the agency.

On Tuesday, nurses and representatives with the SEIU 721 union spoke out against the measure outside the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting in downtown to L.A. The California Nurses Association also said it planning a “day of action” for Thursday to condemn the state’s decision.

“It is absolutely infuriating that Democrats turned our nation upside down, harmed our children and may have even allowed the Democrats to steal an election creating these mandates, only to be forced to throw it all out the window on a whim because they did not work” says Sara Carter

“When President Trump was questioning these things, when I would question these things, when any sane person would question these things, the Democrats tried to make everyone look like they wanted to kill their grandmother and that we were conspiracy theorists” adds Carter.

“Is the situation ideal? No,” said Dr. Robert-Kim Farley, an epidemiologist and infectious-diseases expert at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. “Is it the lesser of the two evils of having no one to care for patients, versus having staff caring for them that may have COVID? Yes, it’s the lesser of two evils.”

The L.A. Times adds, “Kim-Farley said the policy is a recognition of the significant strain hospitals are experiencing amid an increased number of patients and decreased number of staff. The chances of transmission from an asymptomatic worker are minimal, he said, particularly since he or she would be practicing precautions, including wearing high-grade medical masks.”

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