UPDATE 10. July 2021: PROOF ENDING THE SARS-COV-2 "VARIANT" NARRATIVE | PROFESSOR SUCHARIT BHAKDI, M.D. HAS GOOD NEWS AND A VERY SERIOUS WARNING
UPDATE 20. February 2021: ENTRY – The “virus mutation”?
UPDATE 13. January 2020: CCP Virus Resurgence Occurring in Countries Across Globe
UPDATE 21. December 2020: Explained: 'Out of control' new strain (?) of COVID-19 reported in UK | What it is and will vaccines work against it? & Controversial ‘Spy Tech’ Firm Palantir Lands £23m NHS Data Deal
UPDATE 20. December 2020: UK - CHRISTMAS IS CANCELLED (video)
UPDATE 20. December 2020: COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2): information about the new virus variant (UK Gov) & A new Covid strain: a more stringent lockdown beckons in UK & Coronavirus new variant – genomics researcher answers key questions
UPDATE 19. December 2020: The new strain of Sars-CoV-2 in UK: what we know & New strain (?) of SARS-CoV-2 identified, says South Africa’s health minister
UPDATE 15. December 2020: Everything we know about the new mutant strain (?) of Covid-19 causing agent
UPDATE 14. December 2020: Expert reaction to the new variant of SARS-CoV-2
ICYMI: BRITS GO BONKERS: UK trial to mix and match Covid vaccines to try to improve potency
PROLOGUE: It is just a variant that causes the hype and travel havoc. Your immune system will still track the contagion down and handle it. There are already over 1000 variants established and the appearance of a new one - be it ‘VUI – 202012/01’ or 'B117' in UK or '501-V2" in South Africa or earlier A222V in Spain and now in Italy - does not warrant any crazy responses that would give rise to unmitigated fear or further oppression of the people. It's a 'Chrismas present' to the control freaks and boost to the rise of fascism.
The six strains of SARS-CoV-2
|Worldwide distribution of the SARS-CoV-2 six strains. Credit: Frontiers in Microbiology|
By University of Bologna - 03. August 2020
The virus causing the COVID-19 pandemic, SARS-CoV-2, presents at least six strains. Despite its mutations, the virus shows little variability, and this is good news for the researchers working on a viable vaccine.
These are the results of the most extensive study ever carried out on SARS-CoV-2 sequencing. Researchers at the University of Bologna drew from the analysis of 48,635 coronavirus genomes, which were isolated by researchers in labs all over the world. This study was published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology. It was then possible for researchers to map the spread and the mutations of the virus during its journey to all continents.
The first results are encouraging. The coronavirus presents little variability, approximately seven mutations per sample. Common influenza has a variability rate that is more than double.
"The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is presumably already optimized to affect human beings, and this explains its low evolutionary change," explains Federico Giorgi, a researcher at Unibo and coordinator of the study. "This means that the treatments we are developing, including a vaccine, might be effective against all the virus strains."
Currently, there are six strains of coronavirus. The original one is the L strain, that appeared in Wuhan in December 2019. Its first mutation—the S strain—appeared at the beginning of 2020, while, since mid-January 2020, we have had strains V and G. To date strain G is the most widespread: it mutated into strains GR and GH at the end of February 2020.
"Strain G and its related strains GR and GH are by far the most widespread, representing 74% of all gene sequences we analyzed," says Giorgi. "They present four mutations, two of which are able to change the sequence of the RNA polymerase and Spike proteins of the virus. This characteristic probably facilitates the spread of the virus."
If we look at the coronavirus map, we can see that strains G and GR are the most frequent across Europe and Italy. According to the available data, GH strain seems close to non-existence in Italy, while it occurs more frequently in France and Germany. This seems to confirm the effectiveness of last months' containment methods.
In North America, the most widespread strain is GH, while in South America we find the GR strain more frequently. In Asia, where the Wuhan L strain initially appeared, the spread of strains G, GH and GR is increasing. These strains landed in Asia only at the beginning of March, more than a month after their spread in Europe.
Globally, strains G, GH and GR are constantly increasing. Strain S can be found in some restricted areas in the U.S. and Spain. The L and V strains are gradually disappearing.
Besides these six main coronavirus strains, researchers identified some infrequent mutations, that, at the moment, are not worrying but should nevertheless be monitored.
"Rare genomic mutations are less than 1% of all sequenced genomes," confirms Giorgi. "However, it is fundamental that we study and analyze them so that we can identify their function and monitor their spread. All countries should contribute to the cause by giving access to data about the virus genome sequences."
This study was published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology, titled "Geographic and Genomic Distribution of SARS-CoV-2 Mutations."
More information: Daniele Mercatelli et al. Geographic and Genomic Distribution of SARS-CoV-2 Mutations, Frontiers in Microbiology (2020). DOI: 10.3389/fmicb.2020.01800
Provided by University of Bologna
PROOF ENDING THE SARS-COV-2 "VARIANT" NARRATIVE | PROFESSOR SUCHARIT BHAKDI, M.D.
Re-published on BITCHUTE July 10th, 2021.
The bad news: There will be massive deaths worldwide of those who took the COVID jab, esp. two shots. The GOOD news: Your immune system is your best defence against SARS-CoV-2 and ALL coronaviruses. If you were infected, even if you experienced no symptoms at all, you are immune to all variants. We've already reached herd immunity. There is no scientific reason to vaccinate against SARS-CoV-2.
Scientific literature references for Dr. Bhakdi's presentation:
SARS-CoV-2 elicits robust adaptive immune responses regardless of disease severity
Human IgG and IgA responses to COVID-19 mRNA vaccines
Circulating SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine Antigen Detected in the Plasma of mRNA-1273 Vaccine Recipients
https://academic.oup.com/cid/advance-article/doi/10.1093/cid/ciab465/6279075 (key spike and IgG after vacc)
(third IgG response to vaccine paper)
SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccination induces functionally diverse antibodies to NTD, RBD, and S2
COVID-19, The Trojan Vaccine: Interview with Dr. Sucharit Bhakdi (DELETED BY YOUTUBE)
The Truth About COVID-19 | Prof. Sucharit Bhakdi (Interview)
Prof. Sucharit Bhakdi Calls Out FAUCI and the VACCINE on Fox News
Professor Sucharit Bhakdi - Full Interview - Planet Lockdown
Professor Sucharit Bhakdi interviewed by Willem Engel
Dr. Sucharit Bhakdi: "This Vaccine is Killing People"
Original video is from Oracle Films (on numerous platforms)
ENTRY – The “virus mutation”?
„Sapere aude! ‘Have courage to use your own reason!“
…and take responsibility for yourself.
Since early February, a whole series of alarming statements about SARS-CoV-2 and its alleged mutations have been circulating in the media.
Two of the most prominent examples are these:
The mutation from the UK and others will overrun us, the virus has been given a rocket boost.
This race has long been lost.
Probably just about everyone in Germany knows these quotes, which come from another so-called “corona expert” – one of the “voices of science.” How many experts are there? Nevertheless, the assertions of this “expert,” a virologist by profession, have not only been extensively disseminated via many media channels, but have also often been (justifiably) criticised.
We don’t want to discuss the media and media representatives here, but what scientists are expecting when they spread such wild horror forecasts is really a mystery to us. Whatever their intentions may be, such scaremongering is certainly not helpful! Especially when it has no factual basis whatsoever.
We are not implying that the virologist quoted above has bad intentions! We assume that they firmly believe in what they say and are convinced that they are doing the right thing. Therefore, we also disassociate ourselves from all the insults and accusations showered on them and other scientists who support the government’s measures or call for even harsher measures. However, we strongly criticise this virologist and many other scientists for their dubious and irresponsible behaviour in making such statements! Spreading fear and panic is never sensible! Even people who are only distantly involved in the field of medicine should know this better than anyone else.
What kind of mutations of SARS-CoV-2 are alleged to exist?
Allegations that the notorious SARS-CoV-2 has been mutating further have been circulating in the media since December 2020.
The most well-known alleged variants that are said to have emerged from SARS-CoV-2 and with which fear is once again being unrestrainedly stoked in the population are:
“CLUSTER 5” from Denmark
B.1.351, 501Y.V2 from South Africa
B.1.1.28 P.1, 501Y.V.3 from Brazil
and, of course, B.1.1.7, 501Y.V1 from the United Kingdom, which served as justification for even harsher, more devastating measures and probably helped create the senseless “#ZeroCovid” campaign.
These mutations, according to the “experts,” will supposedly lead to an easier transmissibility of COVID-19. Due to the mutation of the so-called spike proteins, the alleged new coronaviruses are said to be able to dock onto cells more easily and infiltrate them. The best known examples of these alleged spike protein mutations are D614G and N501Y.
How did the idea of viral mutation come about?
In contrast to what is generally expected in science, the existence of viruses is not factually proven in virology. Instead, their existence is considered to be proven solely on the basis of interpreted appearances and conceptual models. Pathogenic viruses are thus nothing more than mere consensus, i.e. an opinion that has been agreed upon in science.
You can learn more about virus evidence in the main program of ImmanuelProject.
The “SARS-CoV-2” virus, in turn, is itself believed to be a mutation of ancient coronavirus strains. This assumption arose from the so-called “sequence alignment” which is considered one of the strongest scientific proofs for the existence of SARS-CoV-2. Sequence alignment is a bioinformatics technique in which fragments of nucleic acid (DNA) are assembled with a computer into a hypothetical strand of genetic material. In order to carry out the alignment, roughly comparable to a jigsaw puzzle, templates in the form of old strands of genetic material are required. In the same way as the picture on the box of a puzzle serves as a template. In the case of SARS-CoV-2, two old corona models were used for this purpose.
Because during the alignment process, large parts of the constructed genome strand are freely invented, and other parts are “tweaked” by the associated computer programs to produce a reasonably credible result, the finished product never looks 100% like the template. It’s similar to forcibly putting together puzzle pieces that don’t even belong to the original to create a similar image.
=> this (inevitable) deviation to the template is in the end the basis of the entire “mutation” named SARS-CoV-2!
How does one come to the idea that SARS-CoV-2 is supposed to have mutated further?
The genome of SARS-CoV-2 is fictitious, but some of the basis for it is from strands of nucleic acid which are found in the metabolism of any organism (which is part of the reason why any human, animal or plant can potentially test”positive” for Corona). To use the example of the jigsaw puzzle again: you have a few real puzzle pieces, but they have nothing to do with the template, and you simply make up all the remaining parts by cutting out suitable pieces of cardboard and painting them according to the template.
It has been known for more than twenty years that nucleic acid is constantly changing. Therefore, nucleic acid cannot possibly contain our inheritance! Ideas such as epigenetics (the theory of flexible heredity) are only desperate attempts to somehow justify and keep alive the old model of a material heredity in the form of genes.
Nowadays, some scientists are considering that DNA rather serves to generate and release energy in the body, which could explain the constant changes in DNA. However, the majority of scientists still assume the outdated idea of genes (without ever questioning and testing them) and believe that the blueprint of a living being is stored in DNA. Therefore, they interpret the fact that changes to DNA take place as an indication of “mutation” of genes.
Therefore, when examining DNA fragments obtained from humans or animals, mistakenly assumed to be the basis of the hypothetical genetic strand of SARS-CoV-2, finding that the DNA has changed, the conclusion is drawn that SARS-CoV-2 has mutated.
the idea of mutations of SARS-CoV-2 is based only on an interpretation of the fact that all DNA is constantly changing. Or more generally formulated, the idea of the virus mutation arises only because one still works with completely outdated, long since disproved scientific hypotheses.
With this obsolete approach, new mutations of SARS-CoV-2 can be found/invented for all eternity. This can quickly become a catastrophic self-perpetuating vicious circle, and it appears that many scientists have already fallen into this.
You can find more on the topic of “viral mutation” in our video O.R.I., No. 02: “Virus mutation – the misinterpretation of a misinterpretation.” In the main programme of Project Immanuel, this topic and all related matters will be dealt with in detail and substantiated with all necessary references.
- Robert Koch Institute (RKI) – “Übersicht und Empfehlungen zu besorgniserregenden SARS-CoV-2-Virusvarianten (VOC)” [Overview and recommendations on SARS-CoV-2 virus variants of concern (VOC)]
- Zeit Online – “Erbgut in Auflösung” [Hereditary properties under dissolution] by Ulrich Bahnsen – 06 November 2008 (DIE ZEIT, 12.06.2008 No. 25)
- Wissenschafftplus, Issue 1/2019 – “Einführung in eine neue Theorie des Lebens” [Introduction to a new theory of life] by Dr. Stefan Lanka – LK-Verlags UG – ISSN 1861-5856
MEDIA-HYPE - Solche Angstmache ist gezielt:
Lambert here: That’s nice. I guess American consulting and IT firms will be doing for the UK what they have already done for the US.
By Mary Fitzgerald, openDemocracy’s Editor in Chief, and Cori Crider, a US lawyer and a founding Director of Foxglove, a new non-profit that exists to make tech fair. Originally published at OpenDemocracy.
They claimed it was a short-term, ‘emergency’ response to the COVID crisis. In March, the UK government announced a massive NHS data deal with private tech firms. Experts warned it could involve an ‘unprecedented’ transfer of citizens’ private health information to controversial private firms like Palantir: a secretive artificial intelligence outfit founded by a Trump-backing billionaire.
During months of ensuing legal correspondence, the government assured us that this ‘COVID datastore’ would be unwound at the end of the pandemic and the data destroyed. They also assured us that any extension would go out to public tender, in which taxpayers could see and debate the issues at stake.
All of that has now turned out to be false. Today we can reveal that, right as health secretary Matt Hancock was heralding the new vaccine and telling Britons life would be getting “back to normal” by Easter, his government was quietly sealing a lucrative deal with Palantir, worth up to £23 million, to run its massive health datastore for two years. The contract, awarded on 11 December, paves the way for Palantir to play a major, long-term role in the NHS beyond COVID – now, even by the government’s own admission
It’s still not clear what precisely Palantir has been given access to: the list of NHS datasets that the firm will draw on have been redacted from the contract. What is clear, though, is that the government deliberately struck this deal on the quiet – knowing it would be controversial.
Palantir has built software accused of fuelling racist feedback loops in the hands of the Los Angeles police, and has come under fire from its own staff over its role in the US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency’s brutal policy of family separations.
Palantir says its software is being used to “provide secure, reliable, and timely processing of data – while protecting the privacy of data subjects – to enable NHS decision makers to make informed, effective, and responsible public health decisions”.
But serious questions remain about whether the firm has earned the public’s trust, and is a fit and proper partner to be handling the sensitive personal health information of millions of NHS users across England. How should, say, Black or Muslim NHS users feel about their health data going to a company with a long track record of work with the CIA, the US Department of Defense and the LA police?
We’ve been asking the government questions in letters for months. We’ve asked them, repeatedly, what the long-term plans for the datastore are. Whether the companies involved stand to profit from this crisis. And how our personal health information is being used, traded and protected. These are critical questions which affect millions of people across the country. And yet the answers we’ve received have been partial, misleading and obfuscatory.
On 11 December, suspecting they were getting ready to strike a long-term deal with Palantir and others, we wrote to the government warning that we would issue court proceedings to challenge any such move.
Under the NHS Act, common law and data protection laws, the government has to consult the public about major changes to the National Health Service. Were they planning to do so?
They also have to conduct a ‘data protection impact assessment’: to show that they are complying with a range of laws to protect citizens’ sensitive health information. Had this been done?
We also questioned whether it was appropriate to use the so-called G-Cloud framework – an accelerated system for quick-fire, minor contracts – for flagship long-term programmes. We expressly sought assurance that no permanent steps would be taken until the legal issues were resolved.
Instead of responding, the government simply pushed the deal with Palantir through, thereby avoiding having to defend themselves in court.
On top of that, they used our enquiries as an excuse to hide what they were up to; telling other journalists that they couldn’t answer their questions on the COVID-19 datastore because it was the subject of “legal action”, while pressing ahead with the deal anyway.
Secrecy and Obfuscation
This fits a long, worrying pattern of secrecy and obfuscation. Back in June, we had to threaten to sue to just force the government to publish the original contracts governing the NHS COVID data deals. More than 14,000 people across the country backed our call – but we should never have had to fight. People have a right to know how their health assets are being held, protected or traded.
They also have a right to be heard about whether a firm like Palantir is right for the NHS. Palantir’s co-founder, Peter Thiel, was not merely a major donor to the campaign of President Donald Trump: during the 2016 campaign season he chose to consult with avowed White nationalists.
When pressed, Palantir seeks to justify its support for rights abuses committed by government clients by claiming its role is not to set the direction of a democracy’s travel. This is an impoverished view of democracy, in which people periodically vote, but on all detailed questions the government governs, and contractors contract. Our organisations, openDemocracy and Foxglove, are both founded on a different idea: that democracy is a participation sport, involving constant negotiation between the governors and the governed.
openDemocracy’s journalism this year has uncovered countless ‘COVID cronyism’ scandals involving Boris Johnson’s government: massive, taxpayer-funded contracts for Tory donors, allies, or large firms without fair competition or scrutiny. Vast sums have gone to unaccountable companies to deliver a range of poorly performing COVID services, from ‘disastrous’ PPE provision to the failing Test and Trace system.
The government’s furtive conduct around the datastore once again exposes a lack of respect for the views of the citizens who fund the NHS. And it raises real concern about recently revealed plans for a radical ‘shake up’ of the NHS, currently understood to be in development under a political unit in Downing Street. What will that mean?
Healthy democracies hold their leaders accountable. The government snuck through the Palantir deal to avoid scrutiny or debate. But the result will be quite the opposite.
We’re now assessing the grounds for a more ambitious legal challenge: to establish a precedent that will stop them ever doing this again. From Freedom of Information failings to the blacklisting of journalists to the ‘chumocracy’ which has defined the chaotic, failing COVID response, the secrecy, cronyism and lack of accountability we’ve seen from the UK government this year cannot become the new normal. And we’re going to fight to make sure it isn’t.
BREXIT IS DONE (24. Dec. 2020)
The UK GDPR replacement is in the works… probably be 5-eyes friendly, and European Commission will moan.
…the GDPR will be amended by statutory instrument to remove certain provisions no longer needed due to the UK’s non-membership in the EU. Thereafter, the regulation will be referred to as “UK GDPR”. The UK will not restrict the transfer of personal data to countries within the EEA under UK GDPR. However, the UK will become a third country under the EU GDPR, meaning that personal data may not be transferred to the country unless appropriate safeguards are imposed, or the European Commission performs an adequacy decision on the suitability of British data protection legislation (Chapter V). As part of the withdrawal agreement, the European Commission committed to perform an adequacy assessment.
In 1974, as part of the Privacy Act, the U.S. government defined Fair Information Practice Principles (FIPPs). Although these principles are not in themselves law, they form the backbone of privacy law in the United States and the world.
The problem is that BIG DATA undermines one of the major principles: Data Minimization.
Governmental agencies are outsourcing this work because it requires updated secure systems. That’s why “proven” foot soldiers in the spy industry become the go-to companies.
Explained: 'Out of control' new strain (?) of COVID-19 reported in UK | What it is and will vaccines work against it?
As per experts, the new strain of Sars-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, spreads 70 per cent faster than other strains of the infection.
By JND - 21. December 2020
Several countries, including Saudi Arabia, Germany and France, were forced to reimpose travel restrictions after the United Kingdom (UK) reported a new strain of coronavirus and warned that it is "out of control".
The UK, which has reimposed lockdown in London and other parts of the country, has said that the new strain of the COVID-19 infection is "growing faster than ever", forcing the government to reimpose restrictions as a precautionary measure in the country.
"It is really too early to tell… but from what we see so far it is growing very quickly, it is growing faster than (a previous variant) ever grew, but it is important to keep an eye on this," British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had said during a press conference.
What is the new strain of coronavirus?
As per experts, the new strain of Sars-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, spreads 70 per cent faster than other strains of the infection. They believe that nearly 60 per cent of the new cases in London are driven by this new variant of the novel coronavirus.
The UK officials have warned the World Health Organisation (WHO) of the new strain which is now analysing the available data about it to find out more about it.
When was the new strain of COVID-19 discovered?
The British authorities had first warned about the new strain of COVID-19 in September this year. However, it had said that it is mostly confined to London and nearby areas. Meanwhile, other countries have still not reported cases of this variant. Though Italy on Sunday said that one of the citizens, who had recently travelled to the UK, has tested positive for this new strain.
Christmas is Cancelled
By Paul Joseph Watson - 20. December 2020
Borders: Still open!
Please share this video: https://youtu.be/SM9Pfba4Kqw
COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2): information about the new virus variant
The new strain transmits more easily than the previous variant but there is no evidence that it is more likely to cause severe disease or mortality.
- By Public Health England - 20. December 2020
- Main points
Data from Whole Genome Sequencing, epidemiology and modelling suggest the new variant ‘VUI – 202012/01’ (the first Variant Under Investigation in December 2020) transmits more easily than other strains.
We currently have no evidence that the variant is more likely to cause severe disease or mortality – but we are continuing investigations to understand this better.
The way to control this virus is the same, whatever the variant. It will not spread if we avoid close contact with others. Wash your hands, wear a mask, keep your distance from others, and reduce your social contacts.
Is there any evidence that the variant is more serious?
We currently have no evidence that this variant causes more severe disease or higher mortality – but we continue to study cases to understand this better. We know that mortality is a lagging indicator and we will need to continually monitor this over the coming weeks.
Why is this more transmissible?
We know that mutations in the spike protein, the part of the virus that makes it infectious, can change how the virus interacts with human cells. However, we do not yet know the mechanism for this increase in transmission.
The evidence shows that infection rates in geographical areas where this particular strain has been circulating have increased faster than expected, and the modelling evidence has demonstrated that this variant has a higher transmission rate than other variants in current circulation.
How long has this variant been in circulation?
All viruses mutate over time and new variants emerge regularly.
Backwards tracing using the genetic evidence suggests this variant emerged in September 2020 and then circulated at very low levels in the population until mid-November.
The increase in cases linked to the new variant first came to light in late November when PHE was investigating why infection rates in Kent were not falling despite national restrictions. We then discovered a cluster linked to this variant spreading rapidly into London and Essex.
Evidence of increased transmissibility was provided to NERVTAG and ministers on December 18.
Is this strain resistant to the Pfizer vaccine?
There is currently no evidence to suggest that the Pfizer vaccine would not protect people against the new strain.
Further laboratory work is currently being undertaken as a priority to understand this.
How widespread is the variant geographically?
144 Lower Tier Local Authorities have identified at least 1 case genomically, although the vast majority of cases identified are in London, the South East and the East of England.
Can tests detect this new variant?
Labs have been issued with guidance to adapt processes to ensure that PCR tests can detect this variant.
PCR tests can be adapted rapidly to respond to the new variant.
Coronavirus new variant – genomics researcher answers key questions
A new variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19, is thought to be driving increased transmission of the disease in parts of the UK. The government has placed some regions including London under new, stricter coronavirus restrictions, known as Tier 4. People in Tier 4 areas will not be able to gather with anyone outside their household for Christmas, while those in the rest of the country can only gather on Christmas Day itself.
Boris Johnson, the prime minister, and his chief scientific advisors said that the new variant could increase transmission of COVID-19 by as much as 70% and increase the R or reproduction number by 0.4%.
What’s the significance of this new discovery? The Conversation asked Lucy van Dorp, a microbial genomics researcher and an expert in the evolution of pathogens, some key questions about what we know at this point in time.
What do we know about this new variant?
The new UK variant, known as VUI–202012/01 or lineage B.1.1.7, was first identified in the county of Kent on September 20. Matt Hancock, the health secretary, first announced the existence of the variant on December 14; it was subsequently confirmed by Public Health England and the UK’s COVID-19 sequencing consortium.
The variant carries 14 defining mutations including seven in the spike protein, the protein that mediates entry of the virus into human cells. This is a relatively large number of changes compared to the many variants we have in circulation globally.
To date, genetic profiles – or genomes – of this variant have been largely sequenced and shared from the UK but include some in Denmark and two cases in Australia. There have also been reports of a case in the Netherlands. These countries all have very large genome sequencing efforts and it is very possible that these observations do not reflect the true distribution of this variant of the virus, which could exist undetected elsewhere. We will know more as more genomes are generated and shared.
Thanks to the efforts of data sharing, genomic surveillance and COVID-19 test results in the UK, it seems that this variant is now starting to dominate over existing versions of the virus and that it may be responsible for an increasing proportion of cases in parts of the country, particular in regions where we also have rapidly expanding case numbers.
It is always very difficult to disentangle cause and effect in these cases. For example increases in the appearance of certain mutations can be due to viral lineages carrying them rising in frequency just because they happen to be the ones present in an area where transmission is high, for example due to human activities or choice of interventions.
Though this is still a possibility, there are clearly enough concerning observations so far for this variant to warrant very careful characterisation, surveillance and interventions to curb transmission.
Is it more dangerous?
Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, stated clearly that there was no evidence to date that this variant alters disease severity, either in terms of mortality or the seriousness of the cases of COVID-19 for those infected. Work is underway to confirm this.
How do virus mutations happen?
Mutations are a natural part of virus evolution. In the case of SARS-CoV-2, these mutations may arise due to random errors during virus replication, be induced by antiviral proteins within infected people, or via genetic shuffling – known as recombination. Though signs of recombination are not currently detected in SARS-CoV-2.
Most viral mutations are expected to have no impact. For example, when our team assessed individual mutation replacements in more than 50,000 genomes from the first wave of the pandemic, we detected none that significantly altered viral fitness – the ability of the virus to survive and reproduce.
However, every so often a mutation, or in this case a particular combination of mutations, may strike lucky and offer the virus a new advantage. Viruses carrying these combinations of mutations may then increase in frequency by natural selection given the right epidemiological environment.
Where did the variant come from?
Right now, we don’t know. To date, scientists have not identified any closely related viruses to support the theory that the variant had been introduced from abroad. The patterns of mutations observed are more supportive of an extended period of adaptive evolution most likely in the UK based on current data.
Similar patterns of mutation to these have been observed in the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 in chronically infected patients with weaker immune systems. The current hypothesis is that such a scenario of chronic infection, in a single patient, may have played a role in the origin of this variant. This will continue to be investigated.
How many variations of SARS-CoV-2 have we found?
There are many thousands of lineages of SARS-CoV-2 which differ on average by only a small number of defining mutations. It remains true that SARS-CoV-2 currently in global circulation have little genomic diversity. Subtleties in the mutations carried in different lineages can, however, be very useful for reconstructing patterns of transmission.
As an example, work early in the pandemic used lineage assignments to identify at least a thousand introductions of SARS-CoV-2 into the UK.
Why is this one different?
It is important to note that many of the mutations defining the UK variant have been observed in SARS-CoV-2 before and even sometimes quite early in the pandemic.
Yet the UK variant, or lineage, is defined by an unusual number and combination of mutations. One of these mutations, N501Y, has previously been shown to increase binding of the virus to receptors in our cells. N501Y was first sequenced in a virus in Brazil in April 2020 and is currently associated with a SARS-CoV-2 variant also rising in frequency in South Africa – an independent lineage from B.1.1.7 that is also warranting concern.
The particular deletions identified in the spike protein of B.1.1.7 have appeared in multiple other lineages of the virus at increasing frequency and are also observed in chronic infections where they may alter antigenicity - recognition by immune antibodies. These deletions may also be associated with other mutations in the binding region of the coronavirus spike protein, including those observed in infections among farmed mink and a mutation shown to play a role in the virus’s ability to evade the immune system in humans. B.1.1.7 also harbours a truncated ORF8 gene, with deletions in this region previously associated with decreased disease severity.
The functional effect of these mutations and deletions, particularly when in the combination reported in B.1.1.7, are still to be determined. The high number of mutations and the recent increase in prevalence of this particular variant, together with the biological relevance of some of the mutation candidates, emphasises the need for in-depth study.
What does this mean for the vaccine?
At the moment we don’t know. Though we should be reassured that vaccines stimulate a broad antibody response to the entire spike protein, so it is anticipated that their efficacy will not be significantly hampered by mutations. This is already being tested.
However, there is an increasing body of evidence that other species of seasonal coronaviruses exhibit some ability to escape immunity over longer time periods.
It is therefore conceivable that we may reach a point where we are required to update our COVID-19 vaccines, as we do for influenza, to reflect the variants in circulation at the time. It’s too early to say if this will be the case now, but extensive genome sequencing, data sharing, and standardised reporting of variants will be vital to inform these efforts.
Lucy van Dorp - Senior Research Fellow, Microbial Genomics, UCL
Lucy van Dorp does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
University College London provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation UK.
The Conversation UK receives funding from these organisations
By TG - 20. December 2020
The lockdown in the south-east of England may be the shape of things to come. Sixteen million people are under new severe tier 4 restrictions and there are suggestions that these tougher new rules could be in place for months. Many more across the country have seen their plans torn up at the 11th hour. The reason for the government’s change of plan is a new strain of the virus, dubbed B117, that appears no more lethal than the original Sars-CoV-2 but is much more transmissible. European nations have banned flights from the UK, fearful that a mutant pathogen, homegrown in Kent, will spread across our borders and seas. If the new virus’s effect on the rate of transmission is as bad as government advisers’ fear then we will need a national shutdown of the kind imposed in March.
London’s Regent Street was almost empty on Sunday as the capital and the south-east entered tier 4. © Photograph: Joseph Okpako/Getty Images
The prime minister should have acted sooner. He may not have known exactly what was driving the growth in Covid cases but ministers have been aware for a week that something was going wrong. On Tuesday, the British Medical Journal and the Health Service Journal warned that if current trends continued, even without the planned Christmas relaxation, there were likely to be 19,000 Covid patients in English hospitals by New Year’s Eve – the same as at the peak of the first wave in April.
There are calls by influential Conservative backbenchers for the health secretary, Matt Hancock, to resign, but the buck stops with his boss. On planet Boris Johnson it was all going to be terribly easy. Back here on Earth, reality has proved otherwise. Competence matters, and Mr Johnson doesn’t have it. The UK has registered a new daily record of coronavirus cases, reporting 35,928 new infections and 326 deaths on Sunday.
The most important way to reduce the emergence of new mutants is to limit the spread of the virus. For the third time in a year, the government refused to face the facts and take the necessary action until much too late. Those delays have not only cost thousands of lives but have, cumulatively, shredded the trust in authority needed to boost compliance. This is all the more frustrating as the vaccine rollout offered new hope.
More than ever, given increased infectivity, Mr Johnson needs to get an effective test-and-trace system and devise a proper support system for people to self-isolate. The prime minister ought to come up with a funded plan to make schools safe. Without these measures, Mr Johnson does not have a snowball’s chance in hell of escaping from months of lockdown purgatory. A mutant virus cannot wholly explain why we are in this mess or distract from the other failures that have led us here.
The government ought to pursue a zero-Covid strategy that Independent Sage has long advocated.
Compliance should not and cannot rely upon coercion. Had the government been wiser in setting rules, and more effective in communicating the regulations and advice and the reasons for them, it would not now be in the absurd position of sending police to urge people not to board trains home. Over this year, goodwill has not only been drained by the cumulative effect of lockdown, but squandered by official incompetence, the flouting of lockdown by Dominic Cummings and the discovery that while millions are struggling economically, the chumocracy has prospered from government handouts dished out with little scrutiny. That the bulk of the public still wants to do the right thing is despite, not because, of the government.
The new strain (?) of Sars-CoV-2 in UK: what we know
A new version of Covid has emerged in London and South East England. What do we know about it? (Image: Oli Scarff / Getty Images)
What do we know about the new Covid strain? Like all viruses, Sars-CoV-2 changes. Like a manuscript that is being endlessly copied, letter by letter, it accumulates typos – changes in its genetic code. Compared with other viruses, this one changes at quite a slow rate.
But we have seen a new version of the virus’s genetic code – its core manuscript – emerge in London and South East England, and it has some interesting properties.
Firstly, it has accumulated quite a number of changes in the relatively recent past. This points to an interesting history for this strain and also means its biology – and the way it behaves in our bodies – could have changed too.
Secondly, it is growing in the frequency at which we see it in infected people. That could be due to chance – some quirk in restrictions which means it is growing, or it could be that it is displacing other lineages of the virus. It’s something that is very hard to know for sure. This study is called phylodynamics and phylogeography, and this virus is being so intensively studied and tracked that we are seeing ‘recurrent but real’ mutations a fair bit, which makes this analysis more complex. Nevertheless colleagues such as Andrew Rambaut, Nick Goldman and Emma Hodcroft can untangle this. They and other scientists are pretty sure this increase is a property of the virus, not simply that this variant was in the right place and right time.
What don’t we know?
We don’t (yet) know if this change in biology changes other aspects, in particular disease progression. Given the numbers of cases in the South East, and that hospitalisation rates do not seem to have changed massively, there’s unlikely to be a huge difference. But this variant could still be different in a host of ways. Those could include how it transmits – it might affect different age ranges more or less – or it could cause clinical progression of the disease to differ. Researchers will be looking very carefully at this.
The other big question is what this variant means for vaccines: will they still be effective? It's worth stressing that there are thousands of variants of this virus – we are looking at just one of them. Overall the changes we have seen are still small. The fact that all three successful vaccines are tested in an environment of mixtures of many different strains and they have high efficacy rates is a reassuring place to be; but this deserves more attention.
It’s also worth stressing that although the ‘business end’ of the immune system is producing B-cell antibodies – a sort of guided missile that latches onto viruses, prevents viral action and triggers their destruction by macrophages (Pac-Man-like immune cells) there are also T-cells.
T-cells come in two types. One is a sort of ‘public health of cells’ check. These ones regularly knock on the doors of cells, looking to see if there’s anything unusual about them. If something dodgy is found, the cells are triggered to commit suicide. The other is a ‘command-and-control’ type. These T-cells knock on the door of B-cells and effectively say, ‘please show me what you’ve caught using your antibodies’ using a similar mechanism to the ‘public health’ T-cells. If these cells find anything, rather than triggering the suicide switch they say: ‘permission granted to replicate like crazy and get those b*stards’.
The good thing about T-cell immunity is that it works off fragments of viral proteins, not the whole thing. That means any one mutation can at most impact one fragment and the immune response to it.
When we are looking at immune response, it is easier to measure the B-cell response (the presence of antibodies – those guided missiles) but in fact the T-cell response is just as important and is less sensitive to the precise overall configuration of the virus. (If you are thinking how smart this system sounds, you’re right – the immune system is one of the jewels of mammalian evolution.)
The Covid vaccines we have developed stimulate both B and T-cell immunity, so there’s good reason to think that they will protect us against a variety of Sars-CoV-2 strains, this one included. Of course, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t check.
But in terms of NPIs – non-pharmaceutical interventions like the tier restrictions and Track and Trace – England will have to up its game, as most other governments likely will too: we need more effective interventions to reduce transmission. The good thing is that we have a surveillance system keeping watch for and tracking new strains across the UK at the detailed ‘letter by letter’ level. Many other European countries do too. With the sheer number of Covid cases worldwide, this is unlikely to be the first time the virus has mutated to be more infectious – it might just be the first time we’ve detected that it has done so.
New strain (?) of SARS-CoV-2 identified, says South Africa’s health minister
By PTI - 19. December 2020
N.B.: Variant dubbed 501 V2
Earlier this week, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced more stringent measures in some coastal provinces, including closure of the beaches which normally thousands of holidaymakers would pack out, as daily infections rose exponentially in the past week.
By Friday, there were over 9,000 new cases and 184 deaths reported due to COVID-19.
South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has said that a new strain of the novel coronavirus has been identified which was spreading faster, driving the second wave of the pandemic the country was going through.
He said people should be concerned about this new variant of the virus, but there was no reason to panic.
As South Africans headed towards holiday destinations or their ancestral rural homes for the festive season, the minister said there was concern that the novel coronavirus was affecting many young people and those with no comorbidities, who were among those least at risk in the early days of the pandemic.
“We have convened this public briefing today to announce that a variant of the SARS-COV-2 virus — currently termed 501.V2 Variant — has been identified by our genomics scientists here in South Africa,” Mkhize said told reporters
“The evidence that has been collated strongly suggests that the current second wave we are experiencing is being driven by this new variant,” he added.
Earlier this week, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced more stringent measures in some coastal provinces, including closure of the beaches which normally thousands of holidaymakers would pack out, as daily infections rose exponentially in the past week.
By Friday, there were over 9,000 new cases and 184 deaths reported due to COVID-19.
“I’m afraid we do not have good news for you. Our second wave is now well and truly on the rise in all our (nine) provinces,” said Prof Salim Abdool Karim, the head of the government’s Coronavirus Command Council.
He said it was too early to tell if the new strain was more severe than the first or whether it was re-infecting people who got infected in the first wave.
“We have two laboratories which are already growing the virus and we will start doing studies to answer that question. Once we’ve grown the virus, we will add in convalescence serum from those patients who recovered from the virus in the first wave to see whether it neutralises the virus,” Prof Karim said.
He added that studies were currently underway to see whether the vaccines that have been developed would be effective against the new strain.
“Importantly, the same diagnostic tests, same strategies, and the same treatments work against this variant,” Mkhize said, adding another area of concern was that there would be a jump in cases when people return from their holidays in January.
“We should be concerned about it but there is no reason to panic. We have identified this new variant but it is important to emphasise on non-pharmaceutical interventions that work — wearing masks, using sanitisers and maintaining social distancing.
“Because those have worked effectively for COVID-19 and they will work as effectively for the new variant because it’s the behaviour of the virus that we are actually targeting,” the minister said.
Mkhize called on the media and the public not to spread disinformation about the new variant of the virus because the clinical treatment would be the same.
“There has been no evidence to suggest that we need to change any of the clinical treatments and if there would be a need for such, we will talk about it at that point.”
The health minister confirmed that there would be no additional restrictions to those already announced by Ramaphosa.
Everything we know about the new mutant strain (?) of Covid-19
Should you worry, will the vaccine still work and what are the scientists doing now?
By Neil Shaw - 15. December 2020
Experts have identified a new variant of coronavirus which may be linked to the faster spread of Covid-19 in the south of England.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said there is nothing to suggest this new strain is more likely to cause serious disease.
Here the PA news agency answers some of the questions about the development:
– Is this something unusual?
There have been many mutations in the virus since it emerged in 2019.
This is to be expected – SARS-CoV-2 is an RNA virus and these viruses mutate and change.
Public Health England (PHE) said that as of December 13, 1,108 cases with this new variant had been identified, predominantly in the south and east of England.
It has been named VUI – 202012/01 – the first variant under investigation in December.
– Is this something to be worried about?
Not enough is yet known about the new strain, but it is premature to make any claims about the potential impacts of virus mutation.
But if the virus spreads faster it will be harder to control.
However, there have already been various strains of Covid-19 with no real consequence.
It could potentially be serious, but not enough is known, and the surveillance and research will continue.
The Covid-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) consortium said it is difficult to predict whether any given mutation is important when it first emerges and that it would take “considerable time and effort to test the effect of many thousands of combinations of mutations”.
It said the biggest concern is any changes that lead to an increase in reinfections or vaccine failure and that most attention is on mutations in the gene that encodes the spike protein.
There are currently around 4,000 mutations in the spike protein gene.
– Is it the first novel strain detected in the UK?
A number of variants have been detected using sequencing studies in the UK.
A specific variant (the D614G variant) has previously been detected in western Europe and North America which is believed to spread more easily but not cause greater illness.
But it is thought this is the first strain that will be investigated in such detail by PHE.
– Are new variants always a bad thing?
Not necessarily. They could even be less virulent.
However, if they spread more easily but cause the same disease severity, more people will end up becoming ill in a shorter period of time.
– Should we expect the virus to become more harmful?
Not really. Only changes that make viruses better for transmission are likely to be stable and result in new circulating strains.
The pressure on the virus to evolve is increased by the fact that so many millions of people have now been infected.
Most of the mutations will not be significant or give cause for concern, but some may give the virus an evolutionary advantage which may lead to higher transmission or mean it is more harmful.
– Will vaccines still work?
Mr Hancock said the latest clinical advice is that it is highly unlikely that this mutation would fail to respond to a vaccine.
The vaccine produces antibodies against many regions in the spike protein, and it is unlikely a single change would make the vaccine less effective.
However, this could happen over time as more mutations occur, as is the case every year with flu.
PHE said this new variant includes a mutation in the spike protein and that changes in this part of the spike protein may result in the virus becoming more infectious and spreading more easily between people.
– So what are the scientists doing now?
Scientists will be growing the new strain in the lab to see how it responds.
This includes looking at whether it produces the same antibody response, how it reacts to the vaccine, and modelling the new strain.
It could take up to two weeks for this thorough process to be complete.
COG-UK is carrying out random sequencing of positive samples across the UK to compile a sequencing coverage report, which is sent to each of the four public health agencies each week.
It said random sampling is important to capture regional coverage.
– If it’s not that big a deal, why do we care?
While other variants have been identified in the past, it appears this particular strain is spreading quite fast, meaning it could be more transmissible, and therefore warrants further investigation.
– What examples are there of other virus strains?
The Danish government culled millions of mink after it emerged that hundreds of Covid-19 cases in the country were associated with SARS-CoV-2 variants associated with farmed minks — including 12 cases with a unique variant, reported on November 5.
In October a study suggested that a coronavirus variant that originated in Spanish farm workers spread rapidly throughout Europe and accounted for most UK cases.
The variant, called 20A.EU1, is known to have spread from farm workers to local populations in Spain in June and July, with people then returning from holiday in Spain most likely playing a key role in spreading the strain across Europe.
Expert reaction to the new variant of SARS-CoV-2
Matt Hancock announced that a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 has been identified in his speech to the House of Commons.
Dr Lucy van Dorp, senior research fellow in microbial genomics at the UCL Genetics Institute, said:
“It is frustrating to have claims like this made without the associated evidence presented for scientific assessment and the variant remains to be officially announced. It seems COG-UK will release further details soon1 and a preprint may follow2.
“The possible candidates based on some of our own observations (current as of 30th November) is that this may refer to a double deletion in the coronavirus spike protein (positions 69/70) or alternatively a spike mutation in the receptor binding domain N501Y3. There is some experimental support for N501Y increasing receptor binding experimental settings and mouse models. There have also been some reports that the spike double deletion has a moderate impact on antibody recognition.
“At the same time it is important to remember that all SARS-CoV-2 in circulation are extremely genetically similar to one another and our prior should be that most mutations have no significant impact on the transmissibility of SARS-CoV-2. However genomic monitoring is essential to allow us to stay one step ahead.”
Dr Simon Clarke, Associate Professor of Cellular Microbiology at the University of Reading, said:
“Health Secretary Matt Hancock has linked the discovery of a mutation in the virus’ spike protein to increased transmission; while that is yet to be verified, it would be of grave concern if it indeed proves to be the case. While Hancock states that there is “nothing to suggest” this variant will cause more serious disease, if it spreads more readily than other versions, infecting more people, it could eventually take a bigger toll on human health.”
Dr Zania Stamataki, Viral Immunologist, University of Birmingham, said:
“The emergence of different coronavirus strains a year after SARS-CoV-2 first jumped to humans is neither cause for panic nor unexpected. Mutations will accumulate and lead to new virus variants, pushed by our own immune system to change or perish.
“This virus doesn’t mutate as fast as influenza and, although we need to keep it under surveillance, it will not be a major undertaking to update the new vaccines when necessary in the future. This year has seen significant advances take place, to build the infrastructure for us to keep up with this coronavirus.”
Prof Tom Solomon, the Director of the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Emerging and Zoonotic Infections, at the University of Liverpool, said:
“SARS-CoV-2, the virus which cause Covid-19 is evolving and mutating all the time, as do all similar viruses. Such changes are completely to be expected.
“In the UK we are doing very detailed genetic assessment of many of the virus strains detected. From what Matt Hancock has announced it sounds as though a particular variant is being detected especially across the South of England. Just because there has been a small change in the virus’ genetic make-up this does not mean it is any more virulent, nor that vaccines won’t be effective. Our experience from previous similar viruses suggests that the vaccines will be effective despite small genetic changes.”
Prof Julian Hiscox, Chair in Infection and Global Health, University of Liverpool, said:
Is this to be expected?
“Yes, this has been known for many years with coronaviruses. Coronaviruses have two mechanisms of mutation. If we look at animal coronaviruses, such as infectious bronchitis virus of poultry, there are hundreds of different variants of that virus. There are many different variants of the different seasonal human coronaviruses, and with those people can become reinfected within six months to a year.
Are new variants always more virulent?
“No, not always, but in feline (cat) coronaviruses, within host change in a single infection can lead to a new more virulent virus being formed. In other coronaviruses, some have ‘changed’ that have become less virulent e.g. pig coronaviruses.
Is this a big deal? Should we be alarmed? How should it change our response, if at all?
“We should be cautious and focus efforts on understanding the transmission of this virus and if necessary introducing control measures to prevent its spread. There is always a lag between sampling and information. Currently there is no evidence that this virus will evade the vaccine or will lead to increased disease or death.
What will PHE be doing to analyse it? What do we need to know about it?
“PHE will be focusing on sequencing the virus from patients to determine its prevalence in the population and conducting analysis of the biology of the virus e.g. does it grow more quickly or the same as other strains. They will also be checking that the nucleic acid based diagnostic remain fit for purpose as many of these target the spike gene. This illustrates why we need a rapid mechanism in the UK to understand these so called genotype to phenotype changes.
Why should we be confident that it will still respond to the vaccines?
“We know from other coronaviruses that small changes in the spike glycoprotein (that is the target of the vaccine) can lead to vaccine escape. We have no evidence at the moment whether this variant will or won’t respond to the vaccine. This illustrates that we need to be agile and flexible with the vaccine platforms and will probably be like seasonal influenza viruses where we have to give multiple vaccines that change with time.
How different do variants need to be for one to resist a vaccine?
“This depends on where the variants are located in the vaccine target. If this is in what is called the receptor binding domain of spike then variants may be refractive to the vaccine. This illustrates why for most animal coronaviruses the vaccines are multi-valiant i.e. target a number of different viral proteins.”
Prof Richard Tedder, Senior Research Investigator in Medical Virology, Imperial College London, said:
“In reality, when one has a species jump of a virus, it is not at all surprising if the virus undergoes a period of adaptation to the new host. This does not necessarily bring about a change in the degree to which the virus causes disease; in fact some of the most effective agents at establishing themselves in the human population recently have exploited long periods of apparent clinical harmony with their new host, HIV being a case in point. So, although the initial primary host of SARS-CoV-2 may not be known with absolute certainty, on the scale that we now see this is clearly a new infection in our species. One has seen a natural evolution of genetic variants for example in HIV, a recent human acquisition. One also sees well documented existence of variants in hepatitis B, a virus in humans of great antiquity, which comprise a number of sub families, better described as genomic variants, or genotypes, which after millennia are stable and circulate as stable variants throughout the human population.
“Viral variation is “normal”. Whilst it is important to keep a genetic eye on the current coronavirus, variation is bound to occur as the numbers of infections and transmissions increase in what is a relatively early stage of this human-virus relationship. This becomes of critical importance if any established variation confers the virus a biological advantage over the host – and the advantage can take many forms. At present, science needs to document genetic variants as we learn more about the diversity of the host-virus relationship and keep a watching brief for evidence of viruses with altered behaviour.”
Prof Martin Hibberd, Professor of Emerging Infectious Disease, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), said:
“Reports of a new variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the south of England is not surprising and it is too early to say how important it is yet.
“It is truly a wonderful worldwide effort that is ensuring that changes in the virus are being monitored, and the UK has been an important part of that. As the vaccines are introduced, this will become a more important process, to ensure that any vaccine escape mutants that could theoretically develop are quickly identified and isolated. In the nearly a year since the first sequencing of SARS-CoV-2, many genetic variants have been identified. These have been useful in understanding the worldwide spread and transmission pattens, but scientists think that only one of these has previously conferred an advantage to the virus. That advantage did not make the virus more virulent, and should not affect vaccines or treatments, but did seem to make the virus slightly more easily spread from one person to the next. This has meant that strain is now the most common variant seen in many parts of the world.
“The newly observed variant in England may be similarly important and perhaps offer an advantage to the virus by becoming more transmissible, but the observation may also be the result of chance events. We are fortunate that we are able to monitor and evaluate this and will no doubt be able to calculate a thorough analysis from the evidence soon.”
Dr Stephen Griffin, Chair of the Virus Division at the Microbiology Society, and Associate Professor in the School of Medicine at the University of Leeds, said:
“Even though Coronaviruses tend to mutate more slowly than some other viruses, this does not mean that they won’t change over time. It is encouraging that our surveillance systems have picked this variant up, but it is important that we understand how this change in the virus spike protein might affect the behaviour of the virus. Importantly, laboratory experiments will be needed to understand how this genetic change may, or may not be linked to the increases in cases in the UK and elsewhere. Importantly, this change is unlikely to affect the efficacy of vaccines, but it remains to be seen whether it causes an effect on how easily the virus spreads from person to person.”
Prof Brendan Wren, Professor of Microbial Pathogenesis, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said:
“The emergence of new genetic variants is a natural process that viruses undergo during protracted epidemics. Invariably the mutations responsible for the new genetic variants are neutral and have little effect on the transmission and virulence of the virus.
“It is impressive that this new variant has been picked up so quickly by the COG-UK genomics teams and this should allow us to monitor and study in detail this emergent variant to ascertain if it could potentially be more problematic.”
Prof Jonathan Stoye, Group Leader, Retrovirus-Host Interactions Laboratory, The Francis Crick Institute, said:
“Genetic variants arise relatively frequently in viruses as a result of errors in copying viral genetic material. These can lead to small changes in virus proteins.
“Such changes may improve virus replication and make SARS-CoV-2 grow a little faster. Such a genetic variant may outgrow other viruses in an individual, and is thus more likely to spread to other people. In a short time, a virus carrying such a genetic change will predominate in the population.
“There are several precedents for SARS-CoV-2 viruses arising with enhanced growth properties but no evidence that any of them cause worse disease. However, viruses with altered genomes may also increase in number simply because they arose in someone who happens to infect a lot of other people, perhaps in a crowded gathering, rather than because the virus has changed properties.
“Experiments with purified viruses to test whether observed genetic changes result in altered properties of the virus will be needed to distinguish between these possibilities. Use of such virological analyses is a vital tool for the further monitoring of potential virus evolution as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds.”
Dr Jeremy Farrar, Director of Wellcome, said:
“While research is ongoing, there is evidence to indicate a new variant of the Covid-19 virus. There have been many mutations in the virus since it emerged in 2019. This is to be expected, SARS-CoV-2 is an RNA virus and these viruses mutate and change. The pressure on the virus to evolve is increased by the fact that so many millions of people have now been infected. Most of the mutations will not be significant or cause for concern, but some may give the virus an evolutionary advantage which may lead to higher transmission or mean it is more harmful.
“The full significance of this is not yet clear – that includes whether a new strain is responsible for the current rise of infections in parts of the UK and, if so, what this may or may not mean for transmission and the efficacy of the first vaccines and treatments. This is potentially serious; the surveillance and research must continue and we must take the necessary steps to stay ahead of the virus.
“Above all, this is a reminder that there is still so much to learn about Covid-19. The pace of the research effort in the past year has been extraordinary, allowing us to make significant progress on the vaccines, treatments and diagnostics needed to end this crisis. The speed at which this has been picked up on is also testament to this phenomenal research effort. However, there is no room for complacency. We have to remain humble and be prepared to adapt and respond to new and continued challenges as we move into 2021. This pandemic is not over and there will still be surprises in the virus, how it evolves and the trajectory of the pandemic in the coming year.
“2020 has been a tough year; tough beyond belief for millions across the country, and across the world. Unfortunately, more difficult months lie ahead and the consequences of relaxing our focus or not having sufficient restrictions will result in more suffering. We have to respect the restrictions and accept that there will be a need for these to be tightened when infection rates rise, or as new information is learned about this virus.”
Dr Andrew Davidson, Reader in Virology at the University of Bristol, said:
“When viruses like SARS-CoV-2 replicate they are constantly mutating. However only changes that make them more “fit” for transmission are likely to be stable and result in new circulating strains. This does not mean that a new virus will cause more severe disease or avoid vaccines but it could transmit more efficiently between people. This has already happened for SARS-CoV-2. A change in the viral spike (termed the D614G change) is believed to have increased the ability of viruses with this change to be transmitted and this strain is now dominant in many countries. A number of studies suggest however, that the new strain does not result in more severe disease. It is very important that we carry out active surveillance to identify changes in SARS-CoV-2, as they occur, and study the properties of any new viruses to determine if they pose a greater threat to human health. Preparedness is key to prevention of spread and updating vaccines if necessary.”
Is this to be expected?
“Yes, coronaviruses are known to mutate.”
Is it the first of its kind detected in the UK?
“A number of variants have been detected using sequencing studies in the UK. A specific variant (the D614G variant) has previously been detected in Western Europe, Nth America etc which is believed to spread more easily but not cause greater illness.”
Are new variants always more virulent?
“No they could even be less virulent. However if they spread more easily but cause the same disease severity more people will end up becoming ill in a shorter period of time.”
Is there any reason to expect it to be more or less harmful?
“No – the main selection is for the virus to spread, it would only become more harmful if this also helps spread.”
Is this a big deal? Should we be alarmed? How should it change our response, if at all?
“Hard to say at this stage. However a virus that spreads more easily will hamper control efforts.”
What will PHE be doing to analyse it? What do we need to know about it?
“Sequencing virus isolates that emerge and trying to determine if it is spreading more rapidly than existing isolates and outcompeting them.”
Why should we be confident that it will still respond to the vaccines?
“The vaccine produces antibodies against many regions in the spike protein it is very unlikely a single change would make the vaccine less effective. However this could happen over time as more mutations occur (happens every year with flu for example).”
Prof Wendy Barclay, Head of the Department of Infectious Disease, Imperial College London, said:
“SARS CoV2 is an RNA virus and mutations are expected to occur as it replicates. It is essential that we understand the consequence of any changes in the genome of the virus – for example, how this might impact on disease, transmission and the immune response to the virus.
“Some variants with changes in the Spike protein have already been observed as the virus is intensely sequenced here in the UK and around the world. There is no evidence that the newly-reported variant results in a more severe disease. This variant contains some mutations in Spike protein that is the major target of vaccines, and it will be important to establish whether they impact vaccine efficacy by performing experiments in the coming weeks.”
Prof Alan McNally, Professor in Microbial Evolutionary Genomics at the University of Birmingham, said:
“Over the past few weeks a few of the UK PCR testing labs have picked up on this new variant. Supported by The COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) consortium and rapid genomics it has been identified incredibly quickly.
“Hopefully the narrative here is how amazing our surveillance has been at picking this up. Huge efforts are ongoing at characterising the variant and understanding its emergence. It is important to keep a calm and rational perspective on the strain as this is normal virus evolution and we expect new variants to come and go and emerge over time. It’s too early to be worried or not by this new variant, but I am in awe of the surveillance efforts in the UK that allowed this to be picked up so fast.”
Prof Jonathan Ball, Professor of Molecular Virology, University of Nottingham, said:
“The genetic information in many viruses can change very rapidly and sometimes these changes can benefit the virus – by allowing it to transmit more efficiently or to escape from vaccines or treatments – but many changes have no effect at all.
“Even though a new genetic variant of the virus has emerged and is spreading in many parts of the UK and across the world, this can happen purely by chance. Therefore, it is important that we study any genetic changes as they occur, to work out if they are affecting how the virus behaves, and until we have done that important work it is premature to make any claims about the potential impacts of virus mutation.”
14 mutations found in SARS-CoV-2: One strain may be more easily spread
|A colorized scanning electron micrograph of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Credit: NIAID|
By Bob Yirka - 06. May 2020
A team of researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS and the Duke Human Vaccine Institute and Department of Surgery has found 14 mutations to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, one of which they suspect might be more easily spread. In the interest of speedy dissemination of findings, the group has uploaded their paper to the bioRxiv preprint server rather than waiting for peer review at another journal.
The work involved analyzing the genomes of the virus found in 6,000 infected people from around the globe. They focused most specifically on the virus genes that are responsible for producing the "spike protein," which is the mechanism the virus uses to attach to human cells. In so doing, they found 14 mutations, but one they named D614G (also known as G614) stood out because it was found in almost all samples outside of China. It was also particularly notable because it appeared to replace a prior mutation called D614. They also noted that in the original outbreak in China, there were only D614 mutations. It was only after the virus began appearing in Europe that the G614 mutation emerged. They suggest that the fact that the G614 virus took over from the prior mutation could mean it is more easily spread. Notably, after the mutation appeared in Europe, the G614 mutation began appearing in samples from other sites around the world, suggesting that this new strain is behind the global pandemic.
Others in the medical science field have expressed skepticism about the suggestions made by the team, insisting that it is far too soon to assume that any of the various strains of the virus are any more contagious than the original strain in China. Some have even suggested that the reason the strain with the G614 mutation has spread so far and wide is because it happened to infect regions that did not begin mitigation efforts in the earliest days of the pandemic. In either case, more work is required to ascertain whether any strains are more contagious than any other, and also to determine if the virus mutates at a rate that could outpace vaccine development.
More information: Bette Korber et al. Spike mutation pipeline reveals the emergence of a more transmissible form of SARS-CoV-2, bioRxiv (2020). DOI: 10.1101/2020.04.29.069054
BRITS GO BONKERS:
- they think like "If you can't get Champagne - try mixing surgical spirit and rum!"
UK trial to mix and match Covid vaccines to try to improve potency
Pilot planned for January will give subjects a shot of both Oxford/AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech versions
The Jenner Institute laboratory where the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is being developed. The mixed trial can go ahead once it has been approved for use. Photograph: David Levene/The Guardian
By Sarah Boseley - 08. December 2020 [N.B.: Known culprit Sarah should declare that she and the whole "Health" as well as "Coronavirus" segments of the The Guardian are financed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation]
A trial is likely to go ahead in January to find out whether mixing and matching Covid vaccines gives better protection than two doses of the same one, the head of the British government’s taskforce has said.
The trial will begin if the University of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is approved in the coming weeks, as is hoped. The treatment can only be administered with licensed vaccines.
The news comes as the first British patients begin receiving coronavirus vaccinations from Tuesday, a jab made by Pfizer/BioNTech, a week after the UK became the first country in the western world to approve a Covid vaccine.
Those who take part in January’s trial will get one shot of AstraZeneca’s vaccine and one of the Pfizer injection. A vaccine from US biotech firm Moderna will also be included if it gets approval.
Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines have both been shown to have 95% efficacy at protecting people against the virus. For AstraZeneca’s, efficacy was 62% among the largest cohort given two doses, but rose to 90% among a smaller group given half a dose initially, followed by a full dose.
Kate Bingham, outgoing chair of the UK’s vaccine taskforce, said the “mix and match” trials were not about making limited supplies of the vaccines go further. The UK government has ordered 40m doses of the Pfizervaccine and 100m of Oxford/AstraZeneca’s candidate.
“It’s not being done because of supplies,” said Bingham. “It’s to do with trying to trigger the immune response and the durability and nothing to do with what vaccines we’ve got.”
The concept is known as a heterologous prime-boost. “It means mix and matching vaccines,” said Bingham. “So you do a prime with one vaccine and then the second – whether it’s 28 days or two months or whatever the agreed periods would be – would be with a different vaccine.”
Viral-based vaccines such as the Oxford jab, which is based on a chimp common cold virus, give a much greater cellular response – prompting the T-cells to kill cells infected with the coronavirus. The mRNA vaccines, like Pfizer’s, tend to generate a bigger antibody response. So the idea is to combine them, in whichever order, to help the immune system respond more powerfully to Sars-CoV2.
“No one’s ever done it live and since we’ll have safe vaccines available we should do that study, because then we have the ability to actually produce better immune responses,” said Clive Dix, deputy chair of the taskforce.
“There is a slight benefit to it, too, in that if prime and boosting either way around work, it may help with the deployment, because it might just be simpler to deploy that way round, but the main reason is to get a stronger immune response.”
Bingham and Dix were speaking at the launch of a progress report on the first six months of the taskforce, which has secured deals for seven different vaccines for the UK.
Three of them – Oxford/AstraZeneca, Valneva and Novavax – are being manufactured in the UK. The first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been made in the Netherlands and Germany, but 4m doses are already in the country and most of the rest of the supply will be UK-manufactured.
There remain questions over when the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine will be approved. The UK regulator has been asked by the government to appraise it following a rolling review, assessing all data and information on safety and efficacy and the quality of the product over recent months as it has become available. But the full data from the late-stage clinical trials, involving 24,000 people, have not yet been published and it is not known how the regulators will view the results.
Dix said the taskforce had no regrets over backing other types of vaccine over mRNA vaccines like Pfizer’s and Moderna’s, adding: “We certainly wouldn’t have got enough [of the Pfizer vaccine] to vaccinate everybody.”
They looked at Moderna but realised they could not get any doses until April, so did not sign a contract. On the day Moderna reported its results, a deal was agreed to buy 5m doses, which was later increased to 7m.