Scientists worried about probable“Nu”-est Covid variant emerging from Southern Africa


A new variant of COVID-19 has recently emerged from the southern regions of Africa. Major effects of this as yet fairly unknown variant has not been seen but the mutations of its spike protein has alarmed scientists in some countries. This has led to a ban in travel from this region on Thursday and Friday, by some countries, as a precautionary measure.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has called for a meeting of the scientific community to discuss the new variant, on Friday. If it is considered to be of importance, it could be named “Nu” continuing with the trend of naming variants using the Greek alphabet. WHO will decide about “Nu” and also whether it will be classified as a variant of concern or as a variant of interest.

First isolated in Botswana, the newest isolated variant B.1.1.529 is said to have twice as many mutations those that are seen on the delta variant. It reportedly spread from Botswana to South Africa and has infected people who traveled to Hong Kong from the region. The travelers had been reportedly vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine.

The delta variant is currently the largest spreading variant of COVID-19, all over the world. Although much is still unknown about the new variant, scientists believe that larger numbers of mutations on spike proteins might help the virus to more easily avoid the body’s immune response.

The new variant has infected a large number of people in Gauteng province in South Africa, which includes Johannesburg. There has been a spike of cases in November in schools as well as among young people.

Researchers in South Africa are tracking the spread of B.1.1.529 in South Africa as well as other regions where it is spreading. They are planning to test its ability to escape from infection-blocking antibodies. They will also study its severity and transmissibility.

The U.K., Israel, Singapore, Germany and Italy have already banned flights from the southern region of Africa and other countries are expected to do so, as well. Scientists are divided in opinion about such bans as some say that the virus will potentially spread throughout the globe whether bans are enforced or not enforced, while others believe that bans are essential to stop the spread of new variants.

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