Brasilia | The new variant of the coronavirus recently detected in Japan and originating in the Amazon could be as contagious as those in the United Kingdom or South Africa, told AFP Felipe Naveca, a researcher who studies the mutations observed in the north from Brazil.
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For this specialist from the Leonidas and Maria Deane Institute, who conducts his studies in partnership with the prestigious Fiocruz research institute, it is likely that this new variant, which the WHO has qualified as “very worrying”, has already spread. in other Brazilian regions.
Something to worry about the health authorities of this country of 212 million where COVID-19 has killed more than 205,000 people, the second heaviest death toll after the United States.
Especially since the variant is from Amazonia, where the number of hospitalizations due to the virus has exploded in recent weeks, especially in Manaus, capital of the state of Amazonas.
Question: What do we know about this new variant?
Response: “We compared the samples and saw that those collected in the Amazon were ancestors of those that were observed in Japan, but the latter had undergone many additional mutations. We are in the process of completing the sequencing to confirm that these mutations detected in Japan were really present before in the Amazon, but it is very likely.
We are now investigating whether this variant is currently predominant in the state of Amazonas. Analysis of samples from November shows it is believed to be present in 50% of COVID-19 cases in that state. When we finish the sequencing in December, this proportion should increase ”.
Q: Could it be as contagious as those in UK and South Africa?
A: “It’s not yet certain, but it’s very possible, because we have observed many mutations in the Spike protein (a point that allows it to penetrate into cells, editor’s note), which have already been associated with this greater potential for transmission of the virus.
But the situation in Manaus is not only due to the new variant. We have seen a sharp increase in cases because of the holiday season and we are in a season where other viruses that transmit respiratory diseases are circulating a lot each year.
One of the hypotheses is that these changes took place precisely because the number of contaminations is very high. We do not know if this variant has already started to circulate outside the state of Amazonas, but if it reached Japan, it could very well have reached other regions of Brazil ”.
Q: Is there any concern that vaccines are ineffective against this variant?
A: “This is the question everyone is asking themselves now. I recently attended a WHO meeting and that was one of the topics. So far, there is nothing to show that this variant can prevent an immune response after vaccination ”.