Public Health England revealed yesterday that it has discovered 38 British cases of a new Covid strain first found in Nigeria. Experts warn the mutation may be resistant to vaccines.
The health body has marked the mutation, which has been labelled as B1.5.25, as ‘a variant under investigation’, while Simon Clarke, a professor of cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, said the strain may be resistant to current vaccines.
Clarke issued the warning after researchers at the University of Edinburgh confirmed the variant’s genome is very similar to the Kent variant, B117, while its spike protein carries the E484K mutation, similar to the South African and Brazil variants.
E484K reportedly helps the virus to evade any anti-bodies via a protein found on the outside of the virus cells.
“We don’t yet know how well this [new] variant will spread, but if it is successful it can be presumed that immunity from any vaccine or previous infection will be blunted,” Clarke told The Guardian. “Any variants which carry E484K should be subject to surge testing as it seems to confer resistance to immunity.”
First detected in Nigeria
Public Health England, however, said there is currently no indication that this new variant, which was first detected in Nigeria in December of last year, is spreading faster or is more lethal than any other mutations.
“There is currently no evidence that this set of mutations causes more severe illness or increased transmissibility,” according to professor Yvonne Doyle, medical director at Public Health England.
“[PHE] is monitoring data about emerging variants very closely and where necessary public health interventions are being undertaken, such as extra testing and enhanced contact tracing,” she added.
The team at the University of Edinburgh said there are now around 100 confirmed cases of the B1.5.25 mutation, in Nigeria, UK, Denmark, Australia and the US. The first 12 cases were discovered in Nigeria, just after Christmas.