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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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WHO declares Monkeypox global health emergency: Five deaths worldwide

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WHO Director tedros adhanom ghebreyesus

The World Health Organization (WHO) Saturday declared a global health emergency over the rapid spread of monkeypox. The designation is based on the spread of the virus, and not the total number of deaths, which amount to only five globally, according to reports.

Currently, there are more than 16,000 reported cases of the disease in 75 countries, states the WHO. Five deaths have been attributed to the exotic disease, officials with the health organization noted. So far there are 2,400 reported cases of monkeypox in the United States.

MONKEYPOX INFO FROM WHO:

  • Vaccines used during the smallpox eradication programme also provided protection against monkeypox. Newer vaccines have been developed of which one has been approved for prevention of monkeypox
  • Monkeypox is caused by monkeypox virus, a member of the Orthopoxvirus genus in the family Poxviridae.
  • Monkeypox is usually a self-limited disease with the symptoms lasting from 2 to 4 weeks. Severe cases can occur. In recent times, the case fatality ratio has been around 3–6%.
  • Monkeypox is transmitted to humans through close contact with an infected person or animal, or with material contaminated with the virus.
  • Monkeypox virus is transmitted from one person to another by close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets and contaminated materials such as bedding.
  • Monkeypox is a viral zoonotic disease that occurs primarily in tropical rainforest areas of central and west Africa and is occasionally exported to other regions.
  • An antiviral agent developed for the treatment of smallpox has also been licensed for the treatment of monkeypox.
  • The clinical presentation of monkeypox resembles that of smallpox, a related orthopoxvirus infection which was declared eradicated worldwide in 1980. Monkeypox is less contagious than smallpox and causes less severe illness.
  • Monkeypox typically presents clinically with fever, rash and swollen lymph nodes and may lead to a range of medical complications.
Monkeypox was first discovered in a monkey in 1958, and according to WHO the first infection in a human was discovered in 1970 in a small child in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
“What’s different now is that we’re seeing cases in other countries that normally don’t have monkeypox,” the WHO website declared. “But in fact, we’ve never seen an outbreak like this before.”

WHO June 27, 2022 Meeting Conclusions: 

“The Committee noted that many aspects of the current multi-country outbreak are unusual, such as the occurrence of cases in countries where monkeypox virus circulation had not been previously documented, and the fact that the vast majority of cases is observed among men who have sex with men, of young age, not previously immunized against smallpox (knowing that vaccination against smallpox is effective in protecting against monkeypox as well). Some Members suggested that, given the low level of population immunity against pox virus infection, there is a risk of further, sustained transmission into the wider population that should not be overlooked. The Committee also stressed that monkeypox virus activity has been neglected and not well controlled for years in countries in the WHO African Region.

The Committee also noted that the response to the outbreak requires collaborative international efforts, and that such response activities have already started in a number of high-income countries experiencing outbreaks, although there has been insufficient time to have evaluated the effectiveness of these activities.”

This story is developing

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