New Nigerian Covid variant detected in UK as 33 cases confirmed

16 February 2021, 15:06

A new coronavirus variant has been detected in the UK
A new coronavirus variant has been detected in the UK. Picture: PA

By Patrick Grafton-Green

A new coronavirus variant linked to Nigeria has emerged with 33 cases detected in the UK so far.

The B.1.525 strain has been detected in 11 countries, also including the US, France, Denmark and Australia, scientists at the University of Edinburgh said.

The earliest traces of it date back to December, when it appeared in the UK and Nigeria.

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It is feared the variant may be able to infect people who have already had Covid-19 or who have been vaccinated.

It contains the E484K mutation, a genetic change found in the South African and Brazilian strains.

Laboratory studies have shown viruses with this mutation are able to escape human defences, making them more efficient at evading natural and vaccine-triggered immunity.

The strain also has a second Q677H mutation in the spike protein, which may help it further evade antibodies.

However even if vaccines are less effective in preventing a person from becoming infected with variants, the current jabs in use could still prevent severe disease and cut hospital admissions.

Health chiefs will today officially list the new strain as under investigation while further tests are carried out, according to MailOnline.

Professor Yvonne Doyle, medical director at PHE, said: “There is currently no evidence that this set of mutations causes more severe illness or increased transmissibility."

Dr Simon Clarke, associate professor of cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, told the Guardian: “We don’t yet know how well this variant will spread, but if it is successful it can be presumed that immunity from any vaccine or previous infection will be blunted.”

He added: “I think that until we know more about these variants, any variants which carry E484K should be subject to surge testing as it seems to confer resistance to immunity, however that is generated.”