A new variant of the Coronvairus has reportedly been identified in Botswana sporting an array of mutations which could make existing vaccines less effective.
The new strain of Coronavirus, dubbed B.1.1.529, is associated with Southern Africa and its 32 spike protein mutations make it highly transmissible and resistant to vaccines. While only ten cases of the new variant have been recorded so far the UK government is closely monitoring the situation.
Tom Peacock a virologist at Imperial College London labelled the new strain “really awful.”
Some vaccines work by training the body to recognise the spikes on coronavirus cells and neutralise them. The mutation to spike proteins could therefore make mRNA doses, such as Pfizer and Moderna, less effective against the variant.
In comments to the Mail Online the UK Health Security Agency, which took over from Public Health England, said it was monitoring the situation closely.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said the variant was “not seen as something that is an issue” for the UK at present.
The news comes amid toughening covid rules across Europe. Both Austria and the Netherlands have announced lockdowns for unvaccinated people whilst the EU has said that it will only allow travellers to come to the bloc who have been vaccinated within the past nine months.