Researchers have found a new Coronavirus variant in Bristol that can infect people who have already tested positive for COVID-19 or those who have been vaccinated. But according to experts, the vaccines against the Coronavirus-caused disease will still provide protection.
The variant identified in Bristol includes a mutation called E484K. According to laboratory studies, viruses with this mutation are capable of escaping human defenses, making them more effective in invading the body's natural and vaccine triggered immunity.
As of Thursday, February 11, the Public Health England (PHE) in the UK said that the experts have found 22 cases of novel Coronavirus infection linked to the Bristol variant. Another Coronavirus variant was found in Liverpool which contains the same mutation.
As of Friday, February 12, the UK healthcare officials have reported more than 4,000,000 COVID-19 cases and over 115,700 deaths. The UK is the first country in the world to begin a mass vaccination program last year to ensure the safety of the countrymen from the novel Coronavirus infection. But since then, the emergence of new variants traumatized the world and raised concerns among healthcare experts.
Dr. Jonathan Stoye, the group leader of the Retrovirus-Host Interactions Laboratory at the Francis Crick Institute, said: "Data are suggesting that this mutation may reduce the efficiency of immune responses against the virus. It is this change that makes the South African variant that we've heard so much about such a danger."
"We hear a lot about trying to keep the South African variants out but what appears to be happening in Bristol and Liverpool is that the same mutation is occurring, which might give these viruses the same properties as the viruses that we were trying to keep out," he added.
According to PHE data, there are currently 202 cases of the South African variant in the UK. However, experts claimed that the current vaccines could still prevent severe disease and help to reduce hospital admissions.
Dr. David Matthews, a virologist at the University of Bristol, told Science Focus: "As far as we can tell, none of the viruses that are emerging can do the thing that you dread – which is that it can both evade the vaccine and still put people in hospital – because that's the only thing we need to worry about."
The virus variants should be monitored to know whether these versions of Coronavirus can still lead people to get admitted to the hospitals, said the expert. But he noted that at this point there is no evidence to prove that all those people who have had the vaccine are getting hospitalized with new variants of the virus.
Contain the Spread
In the initial months of the Coronavirus pandemic, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that to fight against the global health crisis all the countries need to focus on more and more COVID-19 testing.
In the UK, the government has introduced surge testing in some parts of Worcestershire, Bristol, South Gloucestershire, Manchester and London, to contain the spread of the mutated variants. But according to some experts, even with best efforts, concerning mutations could emerge elsewhere.