New Botswana Variant With 32 ‘Horrific’ Mutations Is Most Evolved Covid Strain EVER



British experts have sounded the alarm on a new variant of Covid which has reportedly emerged in Botswana which is the most mutated version of the virus to date.

Only 10 cases of the strain, which could be named “Nu”, have been detected so far.



But it has already been spotted in three countries, suggesting the variant is more prevalent.

It carries 32 mutations, many of which suggest it is highly transmissible and vaccine resistant, and has more alterations in its spike protein than any other variant.



Scientists said it could have appeared as a result of long-term infection in a patient with HIV.

The changes to the peak make it difficult to fight current jabs because they train the immune system to recognize an older version of this part of the virus.



Dr Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College who first discovered its spread, described the combination of mutations in the variant as “horrible.”

He warned that B.1.1.529, its scientific name, had the potential to be “worse than almost everything else” – including the world’s dominant Delta strain.

Scientists, however, told MailOnline that its unprecedented number of mutations could work against it and make it “unstable”, preventing it from becoming mainstream.

They said there was “no need to worry too much” as there was no sign yet that it was spreading quickly.

To date, three infections have been detected in Botswana and six in South Africa, where variant surveillance is more robust.

A case has also been spotted in a 36-year-old man in Hong Kong who recently returned from the mainland.

There is no case in Britain. But the UK Health Security Agency, which took over from Public Health England, said it was monitoring the situation closely.

The mutant variant has raised concerns due to its “very extensive” set of mutations.

Professor François Balloux, a geneticist at University College London, said it was likely the variant would be much more capable of avoiding antibodies than Delta.

He told MailOnline: “At the moment this should be closely watched.

“But there is no need to worry too much, unless it starts to increase in frequency.”

He said his “burst” of mutations suggests that he may have arisen during chronic infection in an immunocompromised person, such as a patient with HIV / AIDS.

What is the new “Botswana” B.1.1.529 variant?

Should i be worried?

The British shouldn’t be “too concerned” about the variant, scientists say.

Its mutations suggest that it is better able to escape vaccine-induced antibodies and more transmissible than other variants.

But this has yet to be confirmed by lab tests or real-world data.

Where were the cases detected?

Ten cases have been detected to date.

There are three in Botswana and six in South Africa.

A case was also detected in Hong Kong in a 36-year-old man who recently returned from the African continent.

No case has been recorded in Britain to date. British officials said they were monitoring the situation closely.

Can the strain dodge vaccine-induced immunity?

Scientists say mutations in the strain suggest it is better able to dodge immunity from vaccines.

Some have warned that it “looks like” it might be better at dodging jabs than any other variant, including the South African “Beta” strain.

But this has yet to be backed up by real-world data or rigorous scientific testing.

Some have suggested that it might actually have too many mutations, which could prevent it from spreading quickly.

Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist at Warwick Medical School, said it “appears” that this mutant strain may dodge vaccine-triggered immunity better than other mutants based on its mutations.

But he added: “It’s always hard to tell just by looking [mutations], and it all depends on how the immune system perceives the change and reacts.

“But it seems that because of the heavy load of [mutations] – some of which we know quite a bit about in terms of harmful transmission – it looks like it could be slightly more worrying than the South African variant.

He said it was difficult to say whether the virus would be more transmissible than Delta at this point.

Professor David Livermore, a microbiologist at the University of East Anglia, said the Botswana variant had raised concerns because of its “very extensive” set of mutations.

He said: “It increases the risk of vaccine escape, but does not prove that it will happen.

“The infectivity of the strain is also unclear, and it too will be affected by the structure of the tip.”

The Botswana variant carries the K417N and E484A mutations which are similar to the South African ‘Beta’ variant which made it more apt to dodge vaccines.

But it also has N440K, found on Delta, and S477N, on the New York variant, which are also linked to the antibody leak.

The variant also exhibits P681H and N679K mutations on a specific part of its spike protein responsible for the infection.

And the N501Y mutation which makes viruses more transmissible and has already been seen on the Kent ‘Alpha’ and Beta variant among others.

Other mutations it has include G446S, T478K, Q493K, G496S, Q498R, and Y505H, although their significance is not yet clear.

Dr Meera Chand, UKHSA, said: ‘The UK Health Safety Agency, in partnership with scientific bodies around the world, is continuously monitoring the status of SARS-CoV-2 variants as they develop. they emerge and develop in the world.

“As it is in the nature of viruses to mutate often and at random, it is not uncommon for a small number of cases to present with new sets of mutations. Any variants showing signs of spread are promptly assessed. ‘

It comes as Covid cases have continued to rise across the UK, but deaths and hospitalizations still tend to fall sharply.

Another 43,676 cases have been recorded in the past 24 hours, an increase of 14.1% from the 38,263 positive cases confirmed last Wednesday.

Meanwhile, 722 Britons infected with the virus searched for NHS care on Saturdays, the latest date figures are available, marking a decrease of 7.3% week-on-week.

And daily Covid deaths have fallen by a quarter, with 149 people dying within 28 days of testing positive for the virus.

Both measurements are two to three weeks behind the trend of cases due to a delay between a person who catches Covid and becomes seriously ill.

Cases have tended to increase in the UK over the past fortnight after schools returned from the midterm break earlier this month.

Infections are concentrated among younger age groups, while booster shots lower cases in those over 60.

A study by SAGE scientists today revealed that England would only experience 35,000 hospitalizations for Covid if the entire population were infected right now, compared to 250,000 in Germany.

Analysis from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) suggested that the NHS would likely not be overwhelmed by the virus, even with a large surge.

Researchers looked at vaccination rates and the cumulative number of infections in 18 European countries to estimate levels of immunity and determine what would happen if everyone were suddenly exposed to the virus.

England would be the least affected in the hypothetical scenario with 34,720 admissions and 6,200 deaths.

Even though the model only looked at England, there is no indication that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would be hit harder.

There have been more than 500,000 hospitalizations for Covid in England alone in the past 18 months, by comparison, with just over 140,000 deaths from the virus.

The study estimated that around 280,000 people in Germany would be hospitalized with the virus – the largest number of countries in Europe – while Romania would suffer around 150,000.

The researchers include Dr Rosanna Barnard, Dr Nick Davies and Dr Adam Kucharski – three members of SAGE whose modeling was instrumental in government policy during the pandemic.

They said higher levels of previous infection and the successful rollout of the booster in England meant the country would likely be better protected than its neighbors this winter.

Britain was branded ‘sick from Europe’ this summer after dropping all restrictions in England in July and seeing cases climb to 50,000 a day. But experts now say an early opening has allowed the country to process its cases, meaning more people are now immune than in Europe.

Scientists also believe Britain’s longer dosage gap between vaccines – 12 weeks versus three weeks on the mainland – has given Britons longer lasting immunity to injections.

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