At least three new strains of coronavirus have been detected in recent weeks, in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Nigeria.
Three new variants of COVID-19 have been detected in recent weeks, findings that have led to new fears around the world as some make the virus up to 70% more transmissible.
Viruses are known to constantly change and mutate. It is a process that occurs as they are passed from person to person over a period of months.
So, for scientists, it is not surprising to see new variants of the disease.
While it is difficult to predict where new mutations in the disease will occur, none have so far been found containing mutations that make the virus more deadly or more likely to be able to escape vaccines or treatments.
One of the first strains reported is known as the UK variant, which was named VUI-202012/01 (the first variant under investigation in December 2020). This mutation is believed to have first occurred in mid-September in the south-east of the UK, in the capital London or in the county of Kent.
Called by some experts the B.1.1.7 lineage, it quickly became the dominant strain in COVID-19 cases in many parts of the UK.
It doesn’t sound more fatal, but is more contagious than the original strain, which has led to the rapid return of international travel restrictions and other measures during the holiday season.
This can lead to the same general symptoms as the original strain, including a high temperature, persistent dry cough, and loss or change in taste and smell.
The British variant quickly spread to Europe, with Italy, Denmark and the Netherlands reporting new infections. Australia and Singapore have also detected cases of the rapidly spreading UK variant. Countries, including the United States, have already requested negative COVID-19 tests from UK travelers.
Meanwhile, South Africa has also reported a new COVID-19 strain that appears to have mutated more than the UK variant. It has made its way in several countries, including the United Kingdom.
Known as 501.V2, this variant is dominant among new infections confirmed in South Africa and appears to be more infectious than the original virus, according to health officials and scientists leading the antivirus strategy. from the country.
Although it is too early to confirm, this new strain could be responsible for the current resurgence of the disease in the country. South African authorities have introduced tighter restrictions as the total number of confirmed cases approaches one million.
Although the variant is transmitted quickly and viral loads are higher, it is not yet clear whether it leads to more serious illness.
Finally, the latest discovery is a new variant that has appeared in Nigeria. This is a distinct lineage from other mutations.
This P681H variant does not seem to be spreading as fast as the other two new variants. Scientists say there is not yet enough evidence to prove that an increase in cases is linked to increased transmission of this new strain.
New mutations could affect the tests to some extent, making detection of the virus more difficult.