The Citizen (Gauteng)

Variant found in dozens of nations


Geneva – The World Health Organisati­on (WHO) said yesterday a variant of Covid-19 behind the accelerati­on of India’s explosive outbreak has been found in dozens of countries all over the world.

The UN health agency said the B.1.617 variant of Covid-19 – first found in India in October – had been detected in more than 4 500 samples uploaded to an open-access database “from 44 countries in all six WHO regions”.

“And WHO has received reports of detections from five additional countries,” it said in its weekly epidemiolo­gical update on the pandemic. Outside of India, it said that Britain had reported the largest number of Covid cases caused by the variant.

Earlier this week, the WHO declared B.1.617 – which counts three so-called sub-lineages with slightly different mutations and characteri­stics – as a “variant of concern”. It was, therefore, added to the list containing three other variants – those first detected in Britain, Brazil and South Africa.

The variants are seen as more dangerous than the original version of the virus because they are either being more transmissi­ble, deadly or able to get past some vaccine protection­s.

The WHO explained yesterday that B.1.617 was added to the list because it appears to be transmitti­ng more easily than the original virus, pointing to the “rapid increases in prevalence in multiple countries”.

The agency also pointed to “preliminar­y evidence” that the variant was more resistant to treatment with the monoclonal antibody Bamlanivim­ab, and also highlighte­d early lab studies indicating “limited reduction in neutralisa­tion by antibodies”.

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