General news Media in the US and one source in the UK (New Scientist Magazine) has reported earlier this month on a new and possibly dangerous variant of the Covid-19 virus which may have serious implications for the world-wide pandemic; possibly nullifying some of the advances in the so-far developed vaccines.
So far, it is not though that this variant is widespread in the community in the UK or the US, but the possibility of it doing so is concerning.
The New Scientist report states that further investigation is required into the variant which appears to be formed by the UK and California variants of the virus.
In its “16th February edition of the magazine, New Scientist reported:
Two variants of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes covid-19 have combined their genomes to form a heavily mutated hybrid version of the virus. The “recombination” event was discovered in a virus sample in California, provoking warnings that we may be poised to enter a new phase of the pandemic.
The hybrid virus is the result of recombination of the highly transmissible B.1.1.7 variant discovered in the UK and the B.1.429 variant that originated in California and which may be responsible for a recent wave of cases in Los Angeles because it carries a mutation making it resistant to some antibodies.
The recombinant was discovered by Bette Korber at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, who told a meeting organised by the New York Academy of Sciences on 2 February that she had seen “pretty clear” evidence of it in her database of US viral genomes.
If confirmed, the recombinant would be the first to be detected in this pandemic. In December and January, two research groups independently reported that they hadn’t seen any evidence of recombination, even though it has long been expected as it is common in coronaviruses.
The report continues:
Unlike regular mutation, where changes accumulate one at a time, which is how variants such as B.1.1.7 arose, recombination can bring together multiple mutations in one go. Most of the time, these don’t confer any advantage to the virus, but occasionally they do.
Recombination can be of major evolutionary importance, according to François Balloux at University College London. It is considered by many to be how SARS-CoV-2 originated.
Recombination could lead to the emergence of new and even more dangerous variants, although it isn’t yet clear how much of a threat this first recombination event might pose.
Korber has only seen a single recombinant genome among thousands of sequences and it isn’t clear whether the virus is being transmitted from person to person or is just a one-off.
But, their appears to be little to worry about until and if the variant starts to appear in the general population, something which at the time of writing, has not yet occurred.
If it were too however, it could have a significant negative effect upon the current vaccines available to fight against infect ion of the virus.
On the 17th February, the New Scientist magazine reported that the variant is not currently in the community and therefore we have little to worry about right now, and if and until it does do so.
The hybrid is a mash-up of the B.1.1.7 variant first detected in Kent, UK, late last year, and the lesser-known B.1.429, which appears to have originated in southern California. Both are known to be circulating in the Los Angeles area.
Both of these variants carry mutations on their spike proteins that appear to confer an advantage. B.1.1.7 has one called Δ69/70, which makes the virus more transmissible. B.1.429 has a different one called L452R, which can confer resistance to antibodies. Perhaps worryingly, the hybrid virus carries both.
“This kind of event could actually allow the virus to have coupled a more infections virus with a more resistant virus,” Korber said at the conference.
There is more detail in this news item that can be read direct from the New Scientist website here
Source: New Scientist