December 8, 2021

5 things you should know about the new B.1.1.529 Covid variant in South Africa

The Nationwide Institute of Communicable Illnesses (NICD) has printed a new Q&A information (*5*)on the latest B.1.1.529 Covid variant discovery in South Africa.

The information supplies particulars on what well being officers already know about the new variant, the way it differs from different variants and implications for vaccines and testing.

The information is printed in full beneath.


What’s B.1.1.529?(*5*)

On 22 November 2021, we detected a bunch of associated SARS-CoV-2 viruses in South Africa  named the B.1.1.529 lineage.

B.1.1.529 has been detected in Gauteng at comparatively excessive frequency, with >70% of genomes sequenced (n =71) from specimens collected between 14-23 November 2021 belonging to this lineage.

This lineage possesses a excessive variety of mutations beforehand seen in different SARS-CoV-2 variants of curiosity (VOI) or variants of concern (VOC) but additionally different mutations that are novel.

One in all these adjustments could be detected via customary diagnostic exams that focus on the S gene, which permits detection of this lineage in South Africa with out sequencing knowledge.

The World Well being Group and the South African Nationwide Division of Well being had been alerted to this lineage earlier this week. The NGS-SA is constant to watch the frequency of this lineage, and laboratory exams to evaluate the useful impacts of those mutations are underway.

To date the virus has not fulfilled the WHO standards for VOC or VOI. This might be revisited, particularly as the virus spreads and knowledge is collected.


How do the C.1.2, Beta or Delta variants differ from B.1.1.529?(*5*)

Whereas the B.1.1.529  lineage shares a couple of frequent mutations with the C.1.2, Beta and Delta variants, it additionally has plenty of further mutations.

At the current, the B.1.1.529 lineage is comparatively distinct from the C.1.2, Beta and Delta variants and has a special evolutionary pathway.


Does an infection with B.1.1.529 outcome in related signs as with different variants?(*5*)

Presently, no uncommon signs have been reported following an infection with the B.1.1.529 variant and as with different variants some people are asymptomatic.


What are the implications? Will these mutations have an effect on vaccine effectiveness, illness severity, and transmissibility?(*5*)

SARS-CoV-2, like all viruses, adjustments with time, with mutations that afford the virus some type of benefit being chosen for in latest infections.

Whereas a few of the mutations in the B.1.1.529 lineage have arisen in different SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern or variants of curiosity, we’re being cautious about the implications, whereas we collect extra knowledge to know this lineage.

Work is already underway to have a look at the immune escape potential of B.1.1.529 in the laboratory setting.

We’re additionally establishing an actual time system to watch hospitalisation and consequence related to B.1.1.529. Based mostly on our understanding of the mutations in this lineage, partial immune escape is probably going, however it’s probably that vaccines will nonetheless provide excessive ranges of safety towards hospitalisation and demise.

We anticipate new variants to proceed to emerge wherever the virus is spreading. Vaccination stays essential to guard these in our communities at excessive danger of hospitalisation and demise, to cut back pressure on the well being system, and to assist sluggish transmission.

This have to be in conjunction with all the different public well being and social measures, so we advise the public to stay vigilant and proceed to observe COVID-19 protocols by:

  • Guaranteeing good air flow in all shared areas, sporting masks (which cowl your nostril, mouth and chin);
  • Conserving 1.5m distance from others as a lot as potential;
  • Washing or sanitising your fingers and surfaces commonly.

These non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) are nonetheless confirmed to forestall the unfold of all SARS-CoV-2 viruses.


Will these mutations have an effect on check sensitivity?(*5*)

The B.1.1.529 lineage has a deletion (△69-70) inside the S gene that allowed for fast identification of this variant in South Africa and can allow continued monitoring of this lineage irrespective of obtainable sequence knowledge.

Nonetheless, most different targets (together with the N and RdRp genes) stay unaffected from specimens examined in over 100 specimens from testing laboratories in Gauteng so it’s unlikely that general PCR check sensitivity is affected.

These PCR exams usually detect not less than two completely different SARS-CoV-2 targets, which serves as a backup in the case of a mutation arising in one.

Evaluation of the mutations in the nucleocapsid (N gene) of B.1.1.529 viruses means that fast antigen exams should be unaffected, nevertheless, verification of that is underway.


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