BRITISH healthcare agency Public Health England (PHE) has found 38 cases of a new Nigerian Covid-19 strain currently raging which is causing grave concerns as it is reported to be less effective against vaccination.
Following its latest research, PHE announced the discovery and has now labelled the strain a variant under investigation. Despite these concerns, PHE insists there is no evidence that this new Nigerian strain is faster spreading or more deadly than any of the other strains other there.
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh confirmed the B1525 variant, which was first detected in Nigeria, has been found in the UK. According to the University of Edinburgh, 32 cases of the Nigerian strain had been identified in Britain.
Professor Yvonne Doyle, the PHE medical director, said: “There is currently no evidence that this set of mutations causes more severe illness or increased transmissibility. 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.”
Dr Simon Clarke, an associate professor of cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, warned the strain may be resistant to current vaccines. Experts at the university revealed this new strain contains the E484K mutation to the spike protein, which has been found in the South Africa and Brazil variants and is believed to help the virus evade the antibodies which beat it.
Dr Clarke added: “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. 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.”
More than 100 cases of the B1525 variant have been found around the world, according to the University of Edinburgh team. The first example was reportedly found in late December in Nigeria and health authorities have since discovered 12 cases in 51 swabs, while the UK identified 33 infections from more than 70,600 swabs.
Vaccination companies have already warned that jabs work less effectively against the E484K mutation. However, experts are confident the vaccine will protect people from serious illness and death.