Two new virus mutations have been found in the United Kingdom. One of them was discovered in Bristol, another one in Liverpool.
Both variants have the so-called E484K mutation, which has also been found in the South African and Brazilian variants, respectively.
A total of 76 cases of these two new British viruses were found. British researchers described the Bristol version as “disturbing”. The Liverpool version is currently classified as a “variable under investigation”.
The high contagion in the Liverpool mutation has not been measured, however, and there are signs the vaccine is not effective against the surrogate. On the other hand, the Bristol variant is seen to have a higher contagion, similar to the more prevalent Kent variant.
Lennart Svenson, professor of molecular virology at Linköping University, shares the concern about new mutations and refers to the Bristol variant in particular as being of concern.
– This combination is unpleasant. It is not entirely successful to have both properties as in the case of Bristol. On the one hand, the suspected mutation could further spread the infection, and on the other hand, the suspected E484K mutation could bypass the immune response, he says.
Is the immune response sufficient?
The UK is already fighting the so-called Kent variant – N501Y – which has shown signs of it being a more contagious type of coronavirus. This form has spread far beyond the country’s borders. At present, Sweden has recorded 155 mutation cases.
Lennart Svensson is now calling for a sharp increase in sequencing in Sweden and stressing the importance of monitoring how the vaccine bites on people with new mutations. There are already indications that the Astra Zeneca vaccine is low-potency against the South African variant, which may give an idea of what to expect with the new British mutations.
The question is whether we have protections that also apply to this Bristol English version? We assume she will be dominant now. The reason is that viruses love and adapt to it evolutionarily. It should be a central issue for Sweden to find out. Is the immune response enough to kill the mutations appearing in Sweden?
Matti Sällberg, professor and biomedical analyst at Karolinska Institutet, is following the evolution and noticing that there is a lack of knowledge about new mutations.
Vaccine studies, including Astra Zenecas, have shown less efficacy against the virus variant in South Africa. How well the antibodies can protect against infection is not clear.
In the case of the Old British variant, the body’s immune response appears to be working fine. But when it comes to these new British mutations, South Africa and the one changing in Brazil, it looks like the vaccine still works, but it’s a little worse. We don’t know enough about re-infection, says Matti Salberg.
It can become controlling
Lennart Svenson estimates that the Bristol variant will spread outside the UK. Not the least of which is that it spreads well among young adults and is able to infect even people who have been vaccinated. Lennart Svensson sheds light on a possible light in the dark: The threat score for the virus appears to be declining.
– It is a survival strategy for the virus to spread a lot, rather than have a high mortality rate – because then the virus will eventually disappear, he says and continues.
I think this virus will be seasonal in the long term. It will be polished into a gentle virus with high infectivity.