Emergent SARS-CoV-2 lineage B.1.1.7 has been reported by scientists of COG-UK (COVID-19 Genomics Consortium UK).
On behalf of COG-UK, scientists published a paper to explain the science behind the mutations (phylogenetic and genomic analysis).
Several aspects of the B.1.1.7 virus variant are alarming:
- The B.1.1.7 lineage accounts for an increasing proportion of cases in parts of England. According to an analysis by nextstrain.org, this mutation is found in more than 75% of samples collected in the UK now.
- The number of B.1.1.7 cases, and the number of regions reporting B.1.1.7 infections, are growing rapidly over the last four weeks.
- B.1.1.7 has an unusually large number of genetic changes, particularly in the spike protein, one of which is the N501Y mutation that makes the virus more infectious and spreading more easily between people.
Dr Emma Hodcroft reported that this UK variant has been spread to outside of the UK, including Denmark and Australia. It’s reasonable to assume that it is circulating in other places of the world undetected.
The impact of the UK variant is unknown. The vaccine research might be affected by so many genetic changes, especially when it’s not contained. As the paper said, “this novel lineage requires urgent laboratory characterization and enhanced genomic surveillance worldwide.”
Author: River | Himalaya Scholars
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