According to the British minister, there are around 4,000 variants of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus worldwide

There are around 4,000 variants of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, said Nadhim Zahawi, the British minister responsible for distributing the vaccines, in an interview with British television broadcaster Sky News. In the same interview, the British official also said it was “very unlikely” that current vaccines would not work against new variants of the virus.

“We have [no Reino Unido] The largest genome sequencing industry – we have about 50% of the gene sequencing industry – and we’re getting a library of all the variants so we can be ready to respond to any challenge the virus might pose in the fall or after, “said Nadhim Zahawi.

In mid-December, the UK warned the world that there is a new variant (B.1.1.7) that is more transmissible for SARS-CoV-2 than others in circulation. This variant has around 20 mutations, including eight in the spike protein, which is responsible for the entry of SARS-CoV-2 into human cells. It was previously known that the N501Y mutation, which increases the strength of the connection between the spike protein and the cell receptor, was present in the variant.

This week we also learned that the E484K mutation was detected in B.1.1.7, which in their opinion is associated with less interaction with neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. “A limited number of genomes of variant B.1.1.7 with the E484K mutation have been detected,” revealed a technical report from Public Health England, cited by Reuters. So far, only a few cases of the mutation variant have been identified: 11 of 215,159 samples tested, according to the BBC.

In the interview, Nadhim Zahawi was not concerned about the impact of the variant on vaccines. “It is very unlikely that the current vaccine will not be effective in its variants in Kent either [onde começou por ser detectada em Setembro] or in other ways, especially when it comes to serious illness or hospitalization, ”he added. “All manufacturers, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca or others, are looking for ways to improve their vaccines to make sure they are ready for each variant – there are currently around 4,000 variants worldwide.”

There can be thousands of variants of SARS-CoV-2 – part of the virus’ evolutionary process – but few will modify it enough to affect its function or pathogenicity. In addition to B.1.1.7, two more are mainly affected: one in South Africa (B.1.351) and one in Brazil (P.1). Both have the mutations N501Y and E484K. Variants discovered so far in Portugal and South Africa have been identified.

New varieties in South Africa

Regarding the South African variant (or line), a scientific article was published this week in the journal Nature Medicine about an analysis of 1,365 almost complete genomes of the South African SARS-CoV-2, corresponding to a period from March to August 2020, according to Article It will discloses that 16 new strains of the virus were found during this period.

“Most of these strains had unique mutations that were not identified elsewhere,” reads a summary of the work. The team, coordinated by Tulio de Oliveira (Director of the Research Platform for Sequencing and Innovation at the University of KwaZulu-Natal) found that three of these strains (B.1.1.54, B.1.1.56 and C.1) were expanding rapidly in South Africa during the first wave. These variants account for 42% of infections in the country at the time. At the end of August, C.1 was most widespread in South Africa.

This team, which later identified the new variant from South Africa, concluded that this type of genomic surveillance could be used on a large scale in Africa to identify new strains of SARS-CoV-2 and as a basis for controlling the Spread of virus. “This genomic surveillance was crucial for the identification of the 501Y.V2 variant (also known as B.1.351) in South Africa in December 2020,” says the working summary.[tambémconhecidacomoB1351)naÁfricadoSulemDezembrode2020”refere-senoresumodotrabalho[tambémconhecidacomoB1351)naÁfricadoSulemDezembrode2020”refere-senoresumodotrabalho