Scientists identify new COVID-variant in the UK

2021-02-17 at 08:26

Scientists have identified another new coronavirus variant in the UK which has potentially concerning mutations.

B.1.525, the new variant, contains a genetic change called E484K which is also found in the Brazilian and South African variants.

Public Health England (PHE) has said there is no evidence that the mutations in the new variant make the virus more transmissible or cause severe disease.

Laboratory studies have shown that viruses with the E484K mutation can escape human defences, making them more efficient at evading natural and vaccine-triggered immunity.

PHE said 38 cases involving B.1.525 have been identified so far in the UK, after samples dating back to December were studied.

It is not clear where the cases in the UK were found.

The experts said the variant has alterations in its genetic material that make it similar to the Kent variant, which is the dominant virus in the UK.

B.1.525 has also been seen in other countries, including Australia, Denmark, Nigeria and the US.

Professor Yvonne Doyle, PHE medical director, said: “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.

“There is currently no evidence that this set of mutations causes more severe illness or increased transmissibility.

“The best way to stop the spread of the virus is to follow the public health advice – wash your hands, wear a face covering and keep your distance from others.

“While in lockdown, it is important that people stay at home where possible.”