COVID-19 variant found in over 50 countries, scientists unclear of origin

COVID-19 variant found in over 50 countries, scientists unclear of origin

Scientists say they are not sure if the COVID-19 variant first identified in South Africa originated from here.

Prof Tulio - Coronavirus
Supplied by Prof Tulio de Oliveira

UKZN's Professor Tulio de Oliveira has been speaking on the latest scientific results on this strain. 

"It was either found in South Africa through this network and spread very fast. Now it has been found in 48  countries in the world. So it doesn't make sense to call it a South African variant because there are 50 countries where it's circulating." 

Researchers have found people who were infected during the second wave of the coronavirus - have potentially developed some immunity against the new strain and other lineages.

De Oliveira says the variant is still dominant. 

"What is different about this variant is that we are reporting, because normally we have found 30 for almost a year, and what's the difference is that they have many mutations and mutations where you don't want them to be. So the 501Y.V2 has around 9 mutations." 

The world’s vaccine rollout has also intensified. 

NOW READ: South Africa completes its first batch of Johnson & Johnson vaccines

Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca are among the manufacturers leading the pack in the distribution of vaccines. 

Chairperson of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19 Professor Salim Abdool Karim says if vaccines are developed based on the strain capabilities of the 501Y.V2 variant then there are greater prospects the vaccines will be more effective with other variants as well. 

“If we make the next vaccine based on that, we can expect that there’s a good chance that that vaccine will elicit good immune responses that will protect people from getting 501Y.V2 and probably several of the other variants.”

Karim adds that it may take some doing. 

“All the vaccines, in my guess, will have the 501Y.V2. Not because they’re specifically worried about the virus coming from South Africa or the other countries where this virus is present but because the key mutation in the 501Y.V2 is actually also present in many other variants,” he explains.  

“So, if it works against the 501Y.V2 it will work against those as well.” 

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