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<h1>Coronavirus : une nouvelle souche frappe l'Afrique du Sud</h1>
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<p>Sur les autoroutes sud-africaines qui filent vers les plages du sud-est, des milliers de voitures se sont agglutinées ces derniers jours : la période coïncide avec le début de l'été et les grandes vacances dans cette partie du monde. Mais dans ces zones touristiques où le virus se propage déjà avec une rapidité inquiétante, pas de longues journées sur la plage cette année : fermetures ponctuelles, limitation des rassemblements et couvre-feu élargi, le pays africain le plus touché par le virus avec près de 900 000 cas a redonné un tour de vis aux restrictions sanitaires.</p>

<p><span>Jusque très récemment les scientifiques sud-africains ne comprenaient pas pourquoi la deuxième vague de Covid-19 se propageait aussi rapidement surtout auprès des patients plus jeunes. Ce vendredi, sans qu'il n'y ait pour l'instant </span>aucune étude publiée par d'autres scientifiques ou dans une revue<span>, le ministre de la Santé a révélé l'existence d'une nouvelle souche de coronavirus </span>qui pourrait expliquer la rapidité des transmissions. Cette « variante 501.V2 » du virus a été identifiée par des chercheurs sud-africains et signalée à l'<a href="/tags/oms" class="surligner">Organisation mondiale de la santé</a> (OMS), a annoncé le ministre, Zwelini Mkhize, dans un communiqué.</p>

<p>Cette équipe a séquencé des centaines d'échantillons de tout le pays depuis le début de la pandémie en mars. « Ils ont remarqué qu'une variante particulière domine les résultats de ces deux derniers mois », a-t-il expliqué, après que l'<a href="/tags/afrique-du-sud" class="surligner">Afrique du Sud</a> a dépassé la barre des 10 000 nouveaux cas mercredi 16 décembre pour la première fois depuis août.</p>

<p><strong>Lire aussi <a class="underline" href="https://www.lepoint.fr/afrique/comment-le-covid-19-a-mis-l-afrique-du-sud-k-o-08-09-2020-2390840_3826.php" title="">Comment le Covid-19 a mis l'Afrique du Sud K.-O.</a></strong></p>

<h3>Une nouvelle variante qui semble se répandre plus rapidement</h3>

<p>Par ailleurs, des médecins sud-africains ont noté une évolution du paysage épidémiologique, notamment avec davantage de patients plus jeunes, sans comorbidités, qui développent des formes graves de la maladie. Tous les éléments « indiquent fortement que la deuxième vague que nous traversons est portée par cette nouvelle variante », a ajouté le ministre.</p>

<div class="mts"><div class="reset-text mtm mbm"><div class="art-twitter"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="fr"> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">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.<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SARSCOV2MediaBriefing?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SARSCOV2MediaBriefing</a></p> — Dr Zweli Mkhize (@DrZweliMkhize) <a href="https://twitter.com/DrZweliMkhize/status/1339970259332325383?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">December 18, 2020</a> </blockquote>
</blockquote></div></div></div>

<p>L'équipe de chercheurs sud-africains, menés par le professeur Tulio de Oliveira (centre KRISP, université du Kwazulu-Natal), a partagé ses observations avec la communauté scientifique. Elle a aussi alerté le <a href="/tags/royaume-uni" class="surligner">Royaume-Uni</a> de l'identification de la variante sud-africaine, ce qui a permis aux chercheurs britanniques « d'étudier leurs propres échantillons et de trouver une variante similaire », potentiellement impliquée dans la transmission galopante observée dans certaines zones du pays, selon le ministre.</p>

<p>De précédentes mutations du Sars-CoV2 ont déjà été observées et signalées dans le monde. <span>En règle générale, ces changements, appelés mutations, ont peu d'impact et certaines lignées peuvent devenir plus courantes par hasard. Mais des scientifiques du monde entier les suivent pour évaluer s'ils affectent des caractéristiques telles que la transmissibilité, la gravité de la maladie et la réponse aux traitements et aux vaccins.</span></p>

<p><strong><span>Lire aussi <a class="underline" href="https://www.lepoint.fr/afrique/covid-19-l-afrique-du-sud-s-interroge-sur-sa-strategie-16-05-2020-2375728_3826.php" title="">Covid-19 : l'Afrique du Sud s'interroge sur sa stratégie</a></span></strong></p>

<h3>L'inquiétude monte quant à l'efficacité d'un vaccin</h3>

<p>Zwelini Mkhize a affirmé ne pas s'être attendu à une deuxième vague aussi rapidement. Outre l'éventuelle accélération des transmissions liée à cette variante – « pas une raison de paniquer », a-t-il assuré – l'arrivée de l'été austral et la lassitude issue de la première vague ont engendré un certain relâchement des gestes barrières, qui restent pourtant le meilleur frein au virus. Les autorités sud-africaines pensent que la nouvelle variante s'est propagée de la baie de Nelson-Mandela à travers le Cap-Oriental, jusqu'à la Garden Route et au KwaZulu-Natal.</p>

<p>Relativement épargnée jusqu'ici par la pandémie, <a class="underline" href="https://www.lepoint.fr/afrique/a-bas-bruit-le-covid-19-franchit-le-cap-du-million-de-contamines-en-afrique-07-08-2020-2387039_3826.php" title="">l'Afrique s'arme contre une deuxième vague de Covid-19</a>, qui force les pays les plus touchés du continent de plus de 1,2 milliard d'habitants à revenir vers des mesures sanitaires strictes. L'<a href="/tags/afrique" class="surligner">Afrique</a> du Sud, officiellement de loin le pays le plus touché du continent, comptait vendredi soir 24 285 morts pour plus de 900 000 cas positifs, dont plus de 8 700 détectés en 24 heures. Au pire de la première vague en juillet, le nombre de cas avait culminé à 12 000 par jour.</p>

<p><span>Une question préoccupe les autorités : savoir si les vaccins actuels fonctionneront toujours. Les scientifiques ont déjà révélé que d</span><span>eux des mutations de la nouvelle variante sud-africaine réduisent la sensibilité du virus à certains anticorps. Ces mutations n'ont pas été observées dans de nouvelles variantes au Royaume-Uni et en <a href="/tags/australie" class="surligner">Australie</a>. On sait aussi que l</span><span>es mutations sud-africaines peuvent avoir des conséquences sur l'efficacité des vaccins internationaux anti-Covid-19. Le ministre </span><span>Mkhize pense que les vaccins déjà développés devraient toujours être efficaces contre la nouvelle souche, mais ce n'est pas encore garanti.</span></p>

<div class="mts"><div class="reset-text mtm mbm"><div class="art-twitter"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="fr"> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">This new variant spreads faster but it is too early to tell its severity and whether the current vaccine will work against this variant. We should therefore not panic and continue using the current intervention to stop the spread of <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#COVID19</a>. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SARSCOV2MediaBriefing?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SARSCOV2MediaBriefing</a></p> — NICD (@nicd_sa) <a href="https://twitter.com/nicd_sa/status/1339979117417148417?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">December 18, 2020</a> </blockquote>
</blockquote></div></div></div>

<p><span>Les chercheurs suivront désormais de près les participants sud-africains aux essais de vaccins pour voir si les personnes exposées à la nouvelle variante tombent encore malades. </span><span>Contrairement au Royaume-Uni et en Australie, où leurs nouvelles variantes sont rares, la variante 501.V2 de l'Afrique du Sud est répandue, et les experts disent qu'elle est à l'origine de la deuxième vague de Covid-19 en Afrique du Sud.</span></p>

<p>Ailleurs, le tableau de l'épidémie sur le continent reste contrasté. Les nouveaux cas augmentent en Afrique de l'Est, du Nord et en Afrique australe mais ils ont plutôt tendance à baisser en Afrique de l'Ouest et du centre, selon le Centre de contrôle et de prévention des maladies (CDC) de l'Union africaine. « Au moins 25 pays africains ont enregistré une augmentation de plus de 20 % des cas » le mois dernier, avec désormais 11 000 nouveaux cas par jour, a alerté jeudi le D<sup>r</sup> Nsenga Ngoy de l'OMS, depuis Brazzaville. « De toute évidence, il reste encore beaucoup de travail à faire », a déclaré le D<sup>r </sup>John Nkengasong, directeur des centres africains pour le contrôle et la prévention des maladies, lors de la conférence de presse.</p>

<p class="BeOpWidget"/><p><strong>Lire aussi <a class="underline" href="https://www.lepoint.fr/afrique/afrique-du-sud-le-personnel-de-sante-devaste-par-le-covid-19--06-08-2020-2386951_3826.php" title="">Afrique du Sud : le personnel de santé dévasté par le Covid-19</a></strong></p>
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title: Coronavirus : une nouvelle souche frappe l'Afrique du Sud
url: https://www.lepoint.fr/afrique/coronavirus-une-nouvelle-souche-frappe-l-afrique-du-sud-19-12-2020-2406551_3826.php
hash_url: 25817098300ef19aab6cd8c1be2b3830

<p>Sur les autoroutes sud-africaines qui filent vers les plages du sud-est, des milliers de voitures se sont agglutinées ces derniers jours : la période coïncide avec le début de l'été et les grandes vacances dans cette partie du monde. Mais dans ces zones touristiques où le virus se propage déjà avec une rapidité inquiétante, pas de longues journées sur la plage cette année : fermetures ponctuelles, limitation des rassemblements et couvre-feu élargi, le pays africain le plus touché par le virus avec près de 900 000 cas a redonné un tour de vis aux restrictions sanitaires.</p><p><span>Jusque très récemment les scientifiques sud-africains ne comprenaient pas pourquoi la deuxième vague de Covid-19 se propageait aussi rapidement surtout auprès des patients plus jeunes. Ce vendredi, sans qu'il n'y ait pour l'instant </span>aucune étude publiée par d'autres scientifiques ou dans une revue<span>, le ministre de la Santé a révélé l'existence d'une nouvelle souche de coronavirus </span>qui pourrait expliquer la rapidité des transmissions. Cette « variante 501.V2 » du virus a été identifiée par des chercheurs sud-africains et signalée à l'<a href="/tags/oms" class="surligner">Organisation mondiale de la santé</a> (OMS), a annoncé le ministre, Zwelini Mkhize, dans un communiqué.</p><p>Cette équipe a séquencé des centaines d'échantillons de tout le pays depuis le début de la pandémie en mars. « Ils ont remarqué qu'une variante particulière domine les résultats de ces deux derniers mois », a-t-il expliqué, après que l'<a href="/tags/afrique-du-sud" class="surligner">Afrique du Sud</a> a dépassé la barre des 10 000 nouveaux cas mercredi 16 décembre pour la première fois depuis août.</p><p><strong>Lire aussi <a class="underline" href="https://www.lepoint.fr/afrique/comment-le-covid-19-a-mis-l-afrique-du-sud-k-o-08-09-2020-2390840_3826.php" title="">Comment le Covid-19 a mis l'Afrique du Sud K.-O.</a></strong></p><h3>Une nouvelle variante qui semble se répandre plus rapidement</h3><p>Par ailleurs, des médecins sud-africains ont noté une évolution du paysage épidémiologique, notamment avec davantage de patients plus jeunes, sans comorbidités, qui développent des formes graves de la maladie. Tous les éléments « indiquent fortement que la deuxième vague que nous traversons est portée par cette nouvelle variante », a ajouté le ministre.</p><div class="mts"><div class="reset-text mtm mbm"><div class="art-twitter"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="fr"> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">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.<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SARSCOV2MediaBriefing?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SARSCOV2MediaBriefing</a></p> — Dr Zweli Mkhize (@DrZweliMkhize) <a href="https://twitter.com/DrZweliMkhize/status/1339970259332325383?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">December 18, 2020</a> </blockquote>
</blockquote></div></div></div><p>L'équipe de chercheurs sud-africains, menés par le professeur Tulio de Oliveira (centre KRISP, université du Kwazulu-Natal), a partagé ses observations avec la communauté scientifique. Elle a aussi alerté le <a href="/tags/royaume-uni" class="surligner">Royaume-Uni</a> de l'identification de la variante sud-africaine, ce qui a permis aux chercheurs britanniques « d'étudier leurs propres échantillons et de trouver une variante similaire », potentiellement impliquée dans la transmission galopante observée dans certaines zones du pays, selon le ministre.</p><p>De précédentes mutations du Sars-CoV2 ont déjà été observées et signalées dans le monde. <span>En règle générale, ces changements, appelés mutations, ont peu d'impact et certaines lignées peuvent devenir plus courantes par hasard. Mais des scientifiques du monde entier les suivent pour évaluer s'ils affectent des caractéristiques telles que la transmissibilité, la gravité de la maladie et la réponse aux traitements et aux vaccins.</span></p><p><strong><span>Lire aussi <a class="underline" href="https://www.lepoint.fr/afrique/covid-19-l-afrique-du-sud-s-interroge-sur-sa-strategie-16-05-2020-2375728_3826.php" title="">Covid-19 : l'Afrique du Sud s'interroge sur sa stratégie</a></span></strong></p><h3>L'inquiétude monte quant à l'efficacité d'un vaccin</h3><p>Zwelini Mkhize a affirmé ne pas s'être attendu à une deuxième vague aussi rapidement. Outre l'éventuelle accélération des transmissions liée à cette variante – « pas une raison de paniquer », a-t-il assuré – l'arrivée de l'été austral et la lassitude issue de la première vague ont engendré un certain relâchement des gestes barrières, qui restent pourtant le meilleur frein au virus. Les autorités sud-africaines pensent que la nouvelle variante s'est propagée de la baie de Nelson-Mandela à travers le Cap-Oriental, jusqu'à la Garden Route et au KwaZulu-Natal.</p><p>Relativement épargnée jusqu'ici par la pandémie, <a class="underline" href="https://www.lepoint.fr/afrique/a-bas-bruit-le-covid-19-franchit-le-cap-du-million-de-contamines-en-afrique-07-08-2020-2387039_3826.php" title="">l'Afrique s'arme contre une deuxième vague de Covid-19</a>, qui force les pays les plus touchés du continent de plus de 1,2 milliard d'habitants à revenir vers des mesures sanitaires strictes. L'<a href="/tags/afrique" class="surligner">Afrique</a> du Sud, officiellement de loin le pays le plus touché du continent, comptait vendredi soir 24 285 morts pour plus de 900 000 cas positifs, dont plus de 8 700 détectés en 24 heures. Au pire de la première vague en juillet, le nombre de cas avait culminé à 12 000 par jour.</p><p><span>Une question préoccupe les autorités : savoir si les vaccins actuels fonctionneront toujours. Les scientifiques ont déjà révélé que d</span><span>eux des mutations de la nouvelle variante sud-africaine réduisent la sensibilité du virus à certains anticorps. Ces mutations n'ont pas été observées dans de nouvelles variantes au Royaume-Uni et en <a href="/tags/australie" class="surligner">Australie</a>. On sait aussi que l</span><span>es mutations sud-africaines peuvent avoir des conséquences sur l'efficacité des vaccins internationaux anti-Covid-19. Le ministre </span><span>Mkhize pense que les vaccins déjà développés devraient toujours être efficaces contre la nouvelle souche, mais ce n'est pas encore garanti.</span></p><div class="mts"><div class="reset-text mtm mbm"><div class="art-twitter"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="fr"> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">This new variant spreads faster but it is too early to tell its severity and whether the current vaccine will work against this variant. We should therefore not panic and continue using the current intervention to stop the spread of <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#COVID19</a>. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SARSCOV2MediaBriefing?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SARSCOV2MediaBriefing</a></p> — NICD (@nicd_sa) <a href="https://twitter.com/nicd_sa/status/1339979117417148417?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">December 18, 2020</a> </blockquote>
</blockquote></div></div></div><p><span>Les chercheurs suivront désormais de près les participants sud-africains aux essais de vaccins pour voir si les personnes exposées à la nouvelle variante tombent encore malades. </span><span>Contrairement au Royaume-Uni et en Australie, où leurs nouvelles variantes sont rares, la variante 501.V2 de l'Afrique du Sud est répandue, et les experts disent qu'elle est à l'origine de la deuxième vague de Covid-19 en Afrique du Sud.</span></p><p>Ailleurs, le tableau de l'épidémie sur le continent reste contrasté. Les nouveaux cas augmentent en Afrique de l'Est, du Nord et en Afrique australe mais ils ont plutôt tendance à baisser en Afrique de l'Ouest et du centre, selon le Centre de contrôle et de prévention des maladies (CDC) de l'Union africaine. « Au moins 25 pays africains ont enregistré une augmentation de plus de 20 % des cas » le mois dernier, avec désormais 11 000 nouveaux cas par jour, a alerté jeudi le D<sup>r</sup> Nsenga Ngoy de l'OMS, depuis Brazzaville. « De toute évidence, il reste encore beaucoup de travail à faire », a déclaré le D<sup>r </sup>John Nkengasong, directeur des centres africains pour le contrôle et la prévention des maladies, lors de la conférence de presse.</p><p class="BeOpWidget"/><p><strong>Lire aussi <a class="underline" href="https://www.lepoint.fr/afrique/afrique-du-sud-le-personnel-de-sante-devaste-par-le-covid-19--06-08-2020-2386951_3826.php" title="">Afrique du Sud : le personnel de santé dévasté par le Covid-19</a></strong></p>
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<h1>More people are getting COVID-19 twice, suggesting immunity wanes quickly in some</h1>
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<p>In late June, Sanne de Jong developed nausea, shortness of breath, sore muscles, and a runny nose. At first, she thought it might be lingering effects from her COVID-19 infection in the spring. De Jong, 22, had tested positive on 17 April and suffered mild symptoms for about 2 weeks. She tested negative on 2 May—just in time to say farewell to her dying grandmother—and returned to work as a nursing intern in a hospital in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.</p>

<p>But when her symptoms re-emerged, her doctor suggested she get tested again. “A reinfection this soon would be peculiar, but not impossible,” she told De Jong, who by then had again lost her sense of smell and had abdominal pains and diarrhea.</p>

<p>The call from her municipal health service came on 3 July. De Jong had tested positive again. “You’re kidding me!” she recalls saying.</p>

<p>Scientists are keenly interested in cases like hers, which are still rare but on the rise. Reinfections hint that immunity against COVID-19 may be fragile and wane relatively quickly, with implications not just for the risks facing recovered patients, but also for how long future vaccines might protect people. “The question everybody wants to answer is: Is that second one going to be less severe most of the time or not?” says Derek Cummings, who studies infectious disease dynamics at the University of Florida. “And what do reinfections teach us about SARS-CoV-2 immunity in general?”</p>

<p>South Korean scientists <a href="https://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/nation/2020/04/119_287752.html">reported</a> the first suspected reinfections in April, but it took until 24 August before a case was <a href="https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/08/some-people-can-get-pandemic-virus-twice-study-suggests-no-reason-panic">officially confirmed</a>: a 33-year-old man who was treated at a Hong Kong hospital for a mild case in March and who tested positive again at the Hong Kong airport on 15 August after returning from a trip to Spain. Since then, at least 24 other reinfections <a href="https://bnonews.com/index.php/2020/08/covid-19-reinfection-tracker/">have been officially confirmed</a>—but scientists say that is definitely an underestimate.</p>

<p>To count as a case of reinfection, a patient must have had a positive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test twice with at least one symptom-free month in between. But virologist Chantal Reusken of the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) explains that a second test can also be positive because the patient has a residue of nonreplicating viral RNA from their original infection in their respiratory tract, because of an infection with two viruses at the same time or because they had suppressed but never fully cleared the virus. So most journals want to see two full virus sequences, from the first and second illnesses, that are sufficiently different, says Paul Moss, a hematologist at the University of Birmingham. “The bar is very high,” Moss says. “In many cases, the genetic material just isn’t there.”</p>

<p>Even if it is, many labs don’t have the time or money to clinch the case. As a result, the number of genetically proven reinfections is orders of magnitude lower than that of suspected reinfections. The Netherlands alone has 50 such cases, <a href="https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/internacional/en/scienceandhealth/2020/10/brazil-has-95-suspected-coronavirus-reinfection.shtml">Brazil 95</a>, <a href="https://www.dn.se/sthlm/150-aterinsjuknade-utreds-lakaren-andreas-smittades-tva-ganger/">Sweden 150</a>, <a href="https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.10.14.20212720v1">Mexico 285</a>, and <a href="https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.08.24.20179457v2">Qatar at least 243</a>.</p>

<p>The Hong Kong patient’s second infection was milder than the first, which is what immunologists would expect, because the first infection typically generates some immunity. That may explain why reinfections are still relatively rare, says Maria Elena Bottazzi, a molecular virologist at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital.</p>

<p>They could become more common over the next couple of months if early cases begin to lose their immunity. Reinfections with the four coronaviruses that cause the common cold occur after an average of 12 months, a team led by virologist Lia van der Hoek at Amsterdam University Medical Center <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41591-020-1083-1">recently showed</a>. Van der Hoek thinks COVID-19 may follow that pattern: “I think we’d better prepare for a wave of reinfections over the coming months.” That’s “bad news for those who still believe in herd immunity through natural infections,” she adds, and a worrisome sign for vaccines.</p>

<p>Others are less pessimistic. Although antibodies <a href="https://spiral.imperial.ac.uk/handle/10044/1/83634">can wane substantially within months</a>—particularly in patients with less severe disease—they <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2020.10.051">sometimes persist</a>, even in mild cases. <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.abd7728">Neutralizing antibodies</a>, the most important kind, as well as <a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.11.15.383323v1">memory B cells</a> and <a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.11.01.362319v1">T cells</a> seem to be relatively stable over at least 6 months, a <a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.11.15.383323v1">preprint posted on 16 November</a> shows, which “would likely prevent the vast majority of people from getting hospitalized disease, severe disease, for many years,” lead author Shane Crotty of the La Jolla Institute for Immunology <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/17/health/coronavirus-immunity.html">told <cite>The New York Times</cite></a>.</p>

<p>And there are <a href="https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/ciaa489">hints</a> that people who have serious COVID-19 mount the strongest responses, just as in the two other serious human diseases caused by coronaviruses, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2851497/">severe acute respiratory syndrome</a> (SARS) and <a href="https://immunology.sciencemag.org/content/2/14/eaan5393/tab-pdf">Middle East respiratory syndrome</a>. Both trigger high antibody levels that last up to 2 years, and T cell responses to SARS <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4125530/">can be detected even longer</a>. Because of these persistent immune defenses, “I expect that most reinfections will be asymptomatic,” says Antonio Bertoletti, an infectious disease specialist at the National University of Singapore. He says being reinfected might even be a good thing, “since you will continue to boost and train your immune system.”</p>

<p>Not all reinfections seen so far are milder. “We see all different combinations,” Reusken says. The second time Luciana Ribeiro, a surgeon in Rio de Janeiro, got sick, <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/jmv.26637">it was much worse</a>. She was first infected by a colleague in March, developed mild symptoms, and tested negative afterward. Three months later, Ribeiro had symptoms again—she could no longer smell her breakfast, she says—but she didn’t immediately get a test because she thought she was immune. When she grew more and more tired, she requested a computerized tomography scan. “It showed that half of my lungs were affected,” ­Ribeiro says. “‘This clearly is COVID,’ the radiologist told me. I didn’t believe it, but I tested positive.”</p>

<p>Ribeiro thinks she was reinfected by a patient in the intensive care unit where she works, and that her second episode may have been worse because virus-laden aerosols produced during a medical procedure entered her lungs. But she has another theory as well: “It could be that the virus has become more virulent in the meantime.”</p>

<p>So far, no proof exists of mutations that would make the virus more pathogenic or that might help the virus evade immunity. But a recent preprint by a team at the Swedish Medical Center in Seattle suggests one may exist. The team describes a person who was infected in March and reinfected 4 months later. The second virus had a mutation common in Europe that causes a slight change in the virus’ spike protein, which helps it break into human cells. Although symptoms were milder the second time, neutralization experiments showed antibodies elicited by the first virus did not work well against the second, the authors note, “which could have important implications for the success of vaccine programs.”</p>

<p>And some scientists worry about another scenario that could make the second episode worse: enhanced disease, in which a misfiring immune response to the first infection exacerbates the second one. In dengue fever, for example, antibodies to an initial infection <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/358/6365/929">can actually help dengue viruses of another serotype enter cells</a>, leading to a more severe and sometimes fatal second infection. In some other diseases, the first infection triggers ineffective, nonneutralizing antibodies and T cells, hampering a more effective response the second time around.</p>

<p>A recent <a href="https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.10.08.20209114">preprint</a> published by Chinese researchers suggested patients whose first COVID-19 infection is very severe may have ineffective antibodies, which might make them more prone to severe reinfections. But so far there’s no evidence from reinfected patients to suggest enhanced disease is at work in COVID-19—although scientists haven’t ruled it out either. Vaccination against some diseases can also trigger enhancement later—a known or suspected complication of vaccines against dengue and <a href="https://cvi.asm.org/content/23/3/189">respiratory syncytial virus</a> in humans and <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9492360/">a coronavirus disease in cats</a>. But there is no evidence that candidate COVID-19 vaccines do so, Cummings says. “Having worked with dengue I can say the empirical basis for enhanced disease is just not there, while it was very strong in dengue.”</p>

<p>De Jong’s virus samples were both sequenced in Reusken’s lab, with a surprising outcome: The sequences were not identical, but showed so much similarity that RIVM virologist Harry Vennema says she probably did not clear the virus in April and that it started to replicate again in June. “I did have a lot of stress after that first episode because my grandmother died,” De Jong says. “Maybe that had an impact on my immune system.”</p>

<p>That makes her case different from a true reinfection—although Vennema says perhaps they should be considered similar, because in both cases the immune system failed to mount a protective response. His lab has found at least one similar case, he says, suggesting some unconfirmed reinfections might actually be a resurgence of the original virus.</p>

<p>Other coronaviruses can also cause persistent infections, says Stanley Perlman of the University of Iowa. In 2009, his team <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.4049/jimmunol.0902164">showed</a> that an encephalitis-causing mouse coronavirus can linger in the body and continuously trigger immune responses, even if it doesn’t replicate. And in <a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.11.03.367391v1">a preprint</a> posted on 5 November, a team of U.S. scientists shows SARS-CoV-2 can persist for months inside the gut. Persistent infections, they suggest, may help explain the extraordinarily long-lasting symptoms that afflict some COVID-19 survivors.</p>

<p>De Jong is experiencing some of those symptoms. Although she tested negative in September and has high levels of neutralizing antibodies, suggesting she is protected for at least a couple of months, she still suffers from gastrointestinal complaints, fatigue, and cognitive impairment. De Jong says her story is a warning to people who had the virus and think they’re now invulnerable: “Please be cautious. You can get it again.”</p>
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title: More people are getting COVID-19 twice, suggesting immunity wanes quickly in some
url: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/11/more-people-are-getting-covid-19-twice-suggesting-immunity-wanes-quickly-some
hash_url: 53ab3ec175cd3b4b15710575cde2826a


<p>In late June, Sanne de Jong developed nausea, shortness of breath, sore muscles, and a runny nose. At first, she thought it might be lingering effects from her COVID-19 infection in the spring. De Jong, 22, had tested positive on 17 April and suffered mild symptoms for about 2 weeks. She tested negative on 2 May—just in time to say farewell to her dying grandmother—and returned to work as a nursing intern in a hospital in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.</p>

<p>But when her symptoms re-emerged, her doctor suggested she get tested again. “A reinfection this soon would be peculiar, but not impossible,” she told De Jong, who by then had again lost her sense of smell and had abdominal pains and diarrhea.</p>

<p>The call from her municipal health service came on 3 July. De Jong had tested positive again. “You’re kidding me!” she recalls saying.</p>

<p>Scientists are keenly interested in cases like hers, which are still rare but on the rise. Reinfections hint that immunity against COVID-19 may be fragile and wane relatively quickly, with implications not just for the risks facing recovered patients, but also for how long future vaccines might protect people. “The question everybody wants to answer is: Is that second one going to be less severe most of the time or not?” says Derek Cummings, who studies infectious disease dynamics at the University of Florida. “And what do reinfections teach us about SARS-CoV-2 immunity in general?”</p>

<p>South Korean scientists <a href="https://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/nation/2020/04/119_287752.html">reported</a> the first suspected reinfections in April, but it took until 24 August before a case was <a href="https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/08/some-people-can-get-pandemic-virus-twice-study-suggests-no-reason-panic">officially confirmed</a>: a 33-year-old man who was treated at a Hong Kong hospital for a mild case in March and who tested positive again at the Hong Kong airport on 15 August after returning from a trip to Spain. Since then, at least 24 other reinfections <a href="https://bnonews.com/index.php/2020/08/covid-19-reinfection-tracker/">have been officially confirmed</a>—but scientists say that is definitely an underestimate.</p>

<p>To count as a case of reinfection, a patient must have had a positive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test twice with at least one symptom-free month in between. But virologist Chantal Reusken of the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) explains that a second test can also be positive because the patient has a residue of nonreplicating viral RNA from their original infection in their respiratory tract, because of an infection with two viruses at the same time or because they had suppressed but never fully cleared the virus. So most journals want to see two full virus sequences, from the first and second illnesses, that are sufficiently different, says Paul Moss, a hematologist at the University of Birmingham. “The bar is very high,” Moss says. “In many cases, the genetic material just isn’t there.”</p>

<p>Even if it is, many labs don’t have the time or money to clinch the case. As a result, the number of genetically proven reinfections is orders of magnitude lower than that of suspected reinfections. The Netherlands alone has 50 such cases, <a href="https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/internacional/en/scienceandhealth/2020/10/brazil-has-95-suspected-coronavirus-reinfection.shtml">Brazil 95</a>, <a href="https://www.dn.se/sthlm/150-aterinsjuknade-utreds-lakaren-andreas-smittades-tva-ganger/">Sweden 150</a>, <a href="https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.10.14.20212720v1">Mexico 285</a>, and <a href="https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.08.24.20179457v2">Qatar at least 243</a>.</p>

<p>The Hong Kong patient’s second infection was milder than the first, which is what immunologists would expect, because the first infection typically generates some immunity. That may explain why reinfections are still relatively rare, says Maria Elena Bottazzi, a molecular virologist at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital.</p>

<p>They could become more common over the next couple of months if early cases begin to lose their immunity. Reinfections with the four coronaviruses that cause the common cold occur after an average of 12 months, a team led by virologist Lia van der Hoek at Amsterdam University Medical Center <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41591-020-1083-1">recently showed</a>. Van der Hoek thinks COVID-19 may follow that pattern: “I think we’d better prepare for a wave of reinfections over the coming months.” That’s “bad news for those who still believe in herd immunity through natural infections,” she adds, and a worrisome sign for vaccines.</p>

<p>Others are less pessimistic. Although antibodies <a href="https://spiral.imperial.ac.uk/handle/10044/1/83634">can wane substantially within months</a>—particularly in patients with less severe disease—they <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2020.10.051">sometimes persist</a>, even in mild cases. <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.abd7728">Neutralizing antibodies</a>, the most important kind, as well as <a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.11.15.383323v1">memory B cells</a> and <a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.11.01.362319v1">T cells</a> seem to be relatively stable over at least 6 months, a <a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.11.15.383323v1">preprint posted on 16 November</a> shows, which “would likely prevent the vast majority of people from getting hospitalized disease, severe disease, for many years,” lead author Shane Crotty of the La Jolla Institute for Immunology <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/17/health/coronavirus-immunity.html">told <cite>The New York Times</cite></a>.</p>

<p>And there are <a href="https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/ciaa489">hints</a> that people who have serious COVID-19 mount the strongest responses, just as in the two other serious human diseases caused by coronaviruses, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2851497/">severe acute respiratory syndrome</a> (SARS) and <a href="https://immunology.sciencemag.org/content/2/14/eaan5393/tab-pdf">Middle East respiratory syndrome</a>. Both trigger high antibody levels that last up to 2 years, and T cell responses to SARS <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4125530/">can be detected even longer</a>. Because of these persistent immune defenses, “I expect that most reinfections will be asymptomatic,” says Antonio Bertoletti, an infectious disease specialist at the National University of Singapore. He says being reinfected might even be a good thing, “since you will continue to boost and train your immune system.”</p>

<p>Not all reinfections seen so far are milder. “We see all different combinations,” Reusken says. The second time Luciana Ribeiro, a surgeon in Rio de Janeiro, got sick, <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/jmv.26637">it was much worse</a>. She was first infected by a colleague in March, developed mild symptoms, and tested negative afterward. Three months later, Ribeiro had symptoms again—she could no longer smell her breakfast, she says—but she didn’t immediately get a test because she thought she was immune. When she grew more and more tired, she requested a computerized tomography scan. “It showed that half of my lungs were affected,” ­Ribeiro says. “‘This clearly is COVID,’ the radiologist told me. I didn’t believe it, but I tested positive.”</p>

<p>Ribeiro thinks she was reinfected by a patient in the intensive care unit where she works, and that her second episode may have been worse because virus-laden aerosols produced during a medical procedure entered her lungs. But she has another theory as well: “It could be that the virus has become more virulent in the meantime.”</p>

<p>So far, no proof exists of mutations that would make the virus more pathogenic or that might help the virus evade immunity. But a recent preprint by a team at the Swedish Medical Center in Seattle suggests one may exist. The team describes a person who was infected in March and reinfected 4 months later. The second virus had a mutation common in Europe that causes a slight change in the virus’ spike protein, which helps it break into human cells. Although symptoms were milder the second time, neutralization experiments showed antibodies elicited by the first virus did not work well against the second, the authors note, “which could have important implications for the success of vaccine programs.”</p>

<p>And some scientists worry about another scenario that could make the second episode worse: enhanced disease, in which a misfiring immune response to the first infection exacerbates the second one. In dengue fever, for example, antibodies to an initial infection <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/358/6365/929">can actually help dengue viruses of another serotype enter cells</a>, leading to a more severe and sometimes fatal second infection. In some other diseases, the first infection triggers ineffective, nonneutralizing antibodies and T cells, hampering a more effective response the second time around.</p>

<p>A recent <a href="https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.10.08.20209114">preprint</a> published by Chinese researchers suggested patients whose first COVID-19 infection is very severe may have ineffective antibodies, which might make them more prone to severe reinfections. But so far there’s no evidence from reinfected patients to suggest enhanced disease is at work in COVID-19—although scientists haven’t ruled it out either. Vaccination against some diseases can also trigger enhancement later—a known or suspected complication of vaccines against dengue and <a href="https://cvi.asm.org/content/23/3/189">respiratory syncytial virus</a> in humans and <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9492360/">a coronavirus disease in cats</a>. But there is no evidence that candidate COVID-19 vaccines do so, Cummings says. “Having worked with dengue I can say the empirical basis for enhanced disease is just not there, while it was very strong in dengue.”</p>

<p>De Jong’s virus samples were both sequenced in Reusken’s lab, with a surprising outcome: The sequences were not identical, but showed so much similarity that RIVM virologist Harry Vennema says she probably did not clear the virus in April and that it started to replicate again in June. “I did have a lot of stress after that first episode because my grandmother died,” De Jong says. “Maybe that had an impact on my immune system.”</p>

<p>That makes her case different from a true reinfection—although Vennema says perhaps they should be considered similar, because in both cases the immune system failed to mount a protective response. His lab has found at least one similar case, he says, suggesting some unconfirmed reinfections might actually be a resurgence of the original virus.</p>

<p>Other coronaviruses can also cause persistent infections, says Stanley Perlman of the University of Iowa. In 2009, his team <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.4049/jimmunol.0902164">showed</a> that an encephalitis-causing mouse coronavirus can linger in the body and continuously trigger immune responses, even if it doesn’t replicate. And in <a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.11.03.367391v1">a preprint</a> posted on 5 November, a team of U.S. scientists shows SARS-CoV-2 can persist for months inside the gut. Persistent infections, they suggest, may help explain the extraordinarily long-lasting symptoms that afflict some COVID-19 survivors.</p>

<p>De Jong is experiencing some of those symptoms. Although she tested negative in September and has high levels of neutralizing antibodies, suggesting she is protected for at least a couple of months, she still suffers from gastrointestinal complaints, fatigue, and cognitive impairment. De Jong says her story is a warning to people who had the virus and think they’re now invulnerable: “Please be cautious. You can get it again.”</p>

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<h1>New coronavirus variant: What do we know?</h1>
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<div data-component="image-block" class="css-vk3nhx-ComponentWrapper e1xue1i80"><figure class="css-2y05cd-StyledFigure e34k3c20"><div class="css-kwaqyc-StyledFigureContainer e34k3c22"><span class="css-1xtcmof-Placeholder e16icw910"><span><noscript><img alt="A computer-generated graphic of the virus in front of red blood cells" srcset="https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/news/240/cpsprodpb/69EF/production/_116191172_gettyimages-1212213051.jpg 240w, https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/news/320/cpsprodpb/69EF/production/_116191172_gettyimages-1212213051.jpg 320w, https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/news/480/cpsprodpb/69EF/production/_116191172_gettyimages-1212213051.jpg 480w, https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/news/624/cpsprodpb/69EF/production/_116191172_gettyimages-1212213051.jpg 624w, https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/news/800/cpsprodpb/69EF/production/_116191172_gettyimages-1212213051.jpg 800w, https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/news/976/cpsprodpb/69EF/production/_116191172_gettyimages-1212213051.jpg 976w" src="https://c.files.bbci.co.uk/69EF/production/_116191172_gettyimages-1212213051.jpg" loading="lazy" class="css-evoj7m-Image ee0ct7c0"/></noscript></span></span><span class="css-1ecljvk-StyledFigureCopyright e34k3c23"><span class="css-oyqyoe-VisuallyHidden e1y6uwnp0">image copyright</span>Getty Images</span></div></figure></div>

<pre><code>&lt;div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"&gt;&lt;div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"&gt;&lt;p&gt;&lt;b class="css-14iz86j-BoldText e5tfeyi0"&gt;The rapid spread of a new variant of coronavirus has been blamed for the introduction of strict tier four mixing rules for millions of people, harsher restrictions on mixing at Christmas in England, Scotland and Wales, and other countries placing the UK on a travel ban.&lt;/b&gt;&lt;/p&gt;&lt;/div&gt;&lt;/div&gt;
</code></pre>
<p><div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>So how has it gone from being non-existent to the most common form of the virus in parts of England in a matter of months?</p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>The government's advisers on new infections now say they have "high" confidence that it is more able to transmit than other variants. </p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>All the work is at an early stage, contains huge uncertainties and a long list of unanswered questions. </p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>As I've written before, <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-55312505" class="css-yidnqd-InlineLink e1no5rhv0">viruses mutate all the time and it's vital to keep a laser focus</a> on whether the virus' behaviour is changing. </p></div></div><p data-component="crosshead-block" class="css-mysbf6-ComponentWrapper-CrossheadComponentWrapper e1xue1i84"><h2 class="css-qozapo-StyledHeading e1fj1fc10">Why is this variant causing concern?</h2></p><div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>Three things are coming together that mean it is attracting attention:</p></div></div>
<div data-component="unordered-list-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><div class="css-1pzprxn-BulletListContainer e5tfeyi3"><ul role="list"><li>It is rapidly replacing other versions of the virus</li><li>It has mutations that affect part of the virus likely to be important </li><li>Some of those mutations have already been shown in the lab to increase the ability of the virus to infect cells</li></ul></div></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>All of these come together to build a case for a virus that can spread more easily. </p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>However, we do not have absolute certainty. New strains can become more common simply by being in the right place at the right time - such as London, which had only tier two restrictions until recently. </p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>But already the justification for tier four restrictions is in part to reduce the spread of the variant.</p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>"Laboratory experiments are required, but do you want to wait weeks or months [to see the results and take action to limit the spread]? Probably not in these circumstances," Prof Nick Loman, from the Covid-19 Genomics UK Consortium, told me.</p></div></div><p data-component="crosshead-block" class="css-mysbf6-ComponentWrapper-CrossheadComponentWrapper e1xue1i84"><h2 class="css-qozapo-StyledHeading e1fj1fc10">How much faster is it spreading? </h2></p><div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>It was first detected in September. In November around a quarter of cases in London were the new variant. This reached nearly two-thirds of cases in mid-December. </p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>You can see how the variant has come to dominate the results of testing in some centres such as the Milton Keynes Lighthouse Laboratory.</p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>Mathematicians have been running the numbers on the spread of different variants in an attempt to calculate how much of an edge this one might have. </p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>But teasing apart what is due to people's behaviour and what is due to the virus is hard.</p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>The figure mentioned by Prime Minister Boris Johnson was that the variant may be up to 70% more transmissible. He said this may be increasing the R number - which indicates if an epidemic is growing or shrinking - by 0.4. </p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>During the talk he said: "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."</p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>There is no "nailed on" figure for how much more infectious the variant may be. Scientists, whose work is not yet public, have told me figures both much higher and much lower than 70%. </p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>But there remain questions about whether it is any more infectious at all. </p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>"The amount of evidence in the public domain is woefully inadequate to draw strong or firm opinions on whether the virus has truly increased transmission," said Prof Jonathan Ball, a virologist at the University of Nottingham. </p></div></div><p data-component="crosshead-block" class="css-mysbf6-ComponentWrapper-CrossheadComponentWrapper e1xue1i84"><h2 class="css-qozapo-StyledHeading e1fj1fc10">How far has it spread?</h2></p><div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>It is thought the variant either emerged in a patient in the UK or has been imported from a country with a lower ability to monitor coronavirus mutations.</p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>The variant can be found across the UK, except Northern Ireland, but it is heavily concentrated in London, the South East and eastern England. Cases elsewhere in the country do not seem to have taken off. </p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>Data from Nextstrain, which has been monitoring the genetic codes of the viral samples around the world, suggest cases in Denmark and Australia have come from the UK. The Netherlands has also reported cases.</p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>A similar variant that has emerged in South Africa shares some of the same mutations, but appears to be unrelated to this one.</p></div></div><p data-component="crosshead-block" class="css-mysbf6-ComponentWrapper-CrossheadComponentWrapper e1xue1i84"><h2 class="css-qozapo-StyledHeading e1fj1fc10">Has this happened before?</h2></p><div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>The virus that was first detected in Wuhan, China, is not the same one you will find in most corners of the world. </p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>The <a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.04.29.069054v1" class="css-yidnqd-InlineLink e1no5rhv0">D614G mutation emerged in Europe in February</a> and became the globally dominant form of the virus. </p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>Another, called A222V, spread across Europe and <a href="https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.10.25.20219063v2.full.pdf" class="css-yidnqd-InlineLink e1no5rhv0">was linked to people's summer holidays in Spain</a>.</p></div></div><p data-component="crosshead-block" class="css-mysbf6-ComponentWrapper-CrossheadComponentWrapper e1xue1i84"><h2 class="css-qozapo-StyledHeading e1fj1fc10">What do we know about the new mutations?</h2></p><div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>An initial analysis of the new variant has been published and <a href="https://virological.org/t/preliminary-genomic-characterisation-of-an-emergent-sars-cov-2-lineage-in-the-uk-defined-by-a-novel-set-of-spike-mutations/563" class="css-yidnqd-InlineLink e1no5rhv0">identifies 17 potentially important alterations</a>. </p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>There have been changes to the spike protein - this is the key the virus uses to unlock the doorway to our body's cells. </p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>One mutation called N501Y alters the most important part of the spike, known as the "receptor-binding domain".</p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>This is where the spike makes first contact with the surface of our body's cells. Any changes that make it easier for the virus to get inside are likely to give it an edge. </p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>"It looks and smells like an important adaptation," said Prof Loman.</p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>The other mutation - a H69/V70 deletion, in which a small part of the spike is removed - has emerged several times before, including famously in infected mink.</p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>Work by Prof Ravi Gupta at the University of Cambridge has suggested this mutation increases infectivity two-fold in lab experiments. </p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>Prof Gupta told me: "It is rapidly increasing, that's what's worried government, we are worried, most scientists are worried."</p></div></div><p data-component="crosshead-block" class="css-mysbf6-ComponentWrapper-CrossheadComponentWrapper e1xue1i84"><h2 class="css-qozapo-StyledHeading e1fj1fc10">Where has it come from?</h2></p><div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>The variant is unusually highly mutated.</p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>The most likely explanation is the variant has emerged in a patient with a weakened immune system that was unable to beat the virus.</p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>Instead their body became a breeding ground for the virus to mutate. </p></div></div><p data-component="crosshead-block" class="css-mysbf6-ComponentWrapper-CrossheadComponentWrapper e1xue1i84"><h2 class="css-qozapo-StyledHeading e1fj1fc10">Does it make the infection more deadly?</h2></p><div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>There is no evidence to suggest that it does, although this will need to be monitored.</p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>However, just increasing transmission would be enough to cause problems for hospitals. </p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>If the new variant means more people are infected more quickly, that would in turn lead to more people needing hospital treatment.</p></div></div><p data-component="crosshead-block" class="css-mysbf6-ComponentWrapper-CrossheadComponentWrapper e1xue1i84"><h2 class="css-qozapo-StyledHeading e1fj1fc10">Will the vaccines work against the new variant?</h2></p><div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>Almost certainly yes, or at least for now. </p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>All three leading vaccines develop an immune response against the existing spike, which is why the question comes up.</p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>Vaccines train the immune system to attack several different parts of the virus, so even though part of the spike has mutated, the vaccines should still work.</p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>"But if we let it add more mutations, then you start worrying," said Prof Gupta.</p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>"This virus is potentially on a pathway for vaccine escape, it has taken the first couple of steps towards that."</p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>Vaccine escape happens when the virus changes so it dodges the full effect of the vaccine and continues to infect people.</p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>This may be the most concerning element of what is happening with the virus.</p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>This variant is just the latest to show the virus is continuing to adapt as it infects more and more of us. </p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>A presentation by Prof David Robertson, from the University of Glasgow on Friday, concluded: "<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G3CT9N89L-c&amp;feature=youtu.be" class="css-yidnqd-InlineLink e1no5rhv0">The virus will probably be able to generate vaccine escape mutants</a>."</p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>That would put us in a position similar to flu, where the vaccines need to be regularly updated. Fortunately the vaccines we have are very easy to tweak.</p></div></div></p>
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title: New coronavirus variant: What do we know?
url: https://www.bbc.com/news/health-55388846
hash_url: dec7beb9f41f89811b9f7df843f31422

<div data-component="image-block" class="css-vk3nhx-ComponentWrapper e1xue1i80"><figure class="css-2y05cd-StyledFigure e34k3c20"><div class="css-kwaqyc-StyledFigureContainer e34k3c22"><span class="css-1xtcmof-Placeholder e16icw910"><span><noscript><img alt="A computer-generated graphic of the virus in front of red blood cells" srcset="https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/news/240/cpsprodpb/69EF/production/_116191172_gettyimages-1212213051.jpg 240w, https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/news/320/cpsprodpb/69EF/production/_116191172_gettyimages-1212213051.jpg 320w, https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/news/480/cpsprodpb/69EF/production/_116191172_gettyimages-1212213051.jpg 480w, https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/news/624/cpsprodpb/69EF/production/_116191172_gettyimages-1212213051.jpg 624w, https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/news/800/cpsprodpb/69EF/production/_116191172_gettyimages-1212213051.jpg 800w, https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/news/976/cpsprodpb/69EF/production/_116191172_gettyimages-1212213051.jpg 976w" src="https://c.files.bbci.co.uk/69EF/production/_116191172_gettyimages-1212213051.jpg" loading="lazy" class="css-evoj7m-Image ee0ct7c0"/></noscript></span></span><span class="css-1ecljvk-StyledFigureCopyright e34k3c23"><span class="css-oyqyoe-VisuallyHidden e1y6uwnp0">image copyright</span>Getty Images</span></div></figure></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p><b class="css-14iz86j-BoldText e5tfeyi0">The rapid spread of a new variant of coronavirus has been blamed for the introduction of strict tier four mixing rules for millions of people, harsher restrictions on mixing at Christmas in England, Scotland and Wales, and other countries placing the UK on a travel ban.</b></p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>So how has it gone from being non-existent to the most common form of the virus in parts of England in a matter of months?</p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>The government's advisers on new infections now say they have "high" confidence that it is more able to transmit than other variants. </p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>All the work is at an early stage, contains huge uncertainties and a long list of unanswered questions. </p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>As I've written before, <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-55312505" class="css-yidnqd-InlineLink e1no5rhv0">viruses mutate all the time and it's vital to keep a laser focus</a> on whether the virus' behaviour is changing. </p></div></div><p data-component="crosshead-block" class="css-mysbf6-ComponentWrapper-CrossheadComponentWrapper e1xue1i84"><h2 class="css-qozapo-StyledHeading e1fj1fc10">Why is this variant causing concern?</h2></p><div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>Three things are coming together that mean it is attracting attention:</p></div></div>
<div data-component="unordered-list-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><div class="css-1pzprxn-BulletListContainer e5tfeyi3"><ul role="list"><li>It is rapidly replacing other versions of the virus</li><li>It has mutations that affect part of the virus likely to be important </li><li>Some of those mutations have already been shown in the lab to increase the ability of the virus to infect cells</li></ul></div></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>All of these come together to build a case for a virus that can spread more easily. </p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>However, we do not have absolute certainty. New strains can become more common simply by being in the right place at the right time - such as London, which had only tier two restrictions until recently. </p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>But already the justification for tier four restrictions is in part to reduce the spread of the variant.</p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>"Laboratory experiments are required, but do you want to wait weeks or months [to see the results and take action to limit the spread]? Probably not in these circumstances," Prof Nick Loman, from the Covid-19 Genomics UK Consortium, told me.</p></div></div><p data-component="crosshead-block" class="css-mysbf6-ComponentWrapper-CrossheadComponentWrapper e1xue1i84"><h2 class="css-qozapo-StyledHeading e1fj1fc10">How much faster is it spreading? </h2></p><div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>It was first detected in September. In November around a quarter of cases in London were the new variant. This reached nearly two-thirds of cases in mid-December. </p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>You can see how the variant has come to dominate the results of testing in some centres such as the Milton Keynes Lighthouse Laboratory.</p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>Mathematicians have been running the numbers on the spread of different variants in an attempt to calculate how much of an edge this one might have. </p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>But teasing apart what is due to people's behaviour and what is due to the virus is hard.</p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>The figure mentioned by Prime Minister Boris Johnson was that the variant may be up to 70% more transmissible. He said this may be increasing the R number - which indicates if an epidemic is growing or shrinking - by 0.4. </p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>During the talk he said: "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."</p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>There is no "nailed on" figure for how much more infectious the variant may be. Scientists, whose work is not yet public, have told me figures both much higher and much lower than 70%. </p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>But there remain questions about whether it is any more infectious at all. </p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>"The amount of evidence in the public domain is woefully inadequate to draw strong or firm opinions on whether the virus has truly increased transmission," said Prof Jonathan Ball, a virologist at the University of Nottingham. </p></div></div><p data-component="crosshead-block" class="css-mysbf6-ComponentWrapper-CrossheadComponentWrapper e1xue1i84"><h2 class="css-qozapo-StyledHeading e1fj1fc10">How far has it spread?</h2></p><div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>It is thought the variant either emerged in a patient in the UK or has been imported from a country with a lower ability to monitor coronavirus mutations.</p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>The variant can be found across the UK, except Northern Ireland, but it is heavily concentrated in London, the South East and eastern England. Cases elsewhere in the country do not seem to have taken off. </p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>Data from Nextstrain, which has been monitoring the genetic codes of the viral samples around the world, suggest cases in Denmark and Australia have come from the UK. The Netherlands has also reported cases.</p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>A similar variant that has emerged in South Africa shares some of the same mutations, but appears to be unrelated to this one.</p></div></div><p data-component="crosshead-block" class="css-mysbf6-ComponentWrapper-CrossheadComponentWrapper e1xue1i84"><h2 class="css-qozapo-StyledHeading e1fj1fc10">Has this happened before?</h2></p><div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>The virus that was first detected in Wuhan, China, is not the same one you will find in most corners of the world. </p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>The <a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.04.29.069054v1" class="css-yidnqd-InlineLink e1no5rhv0">D614G mutation emerged in Europe in February</a> and became the globally dominant form of the virus. </p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>Another, called A222V, spread across Europe and <a href="https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.10.25.20219063v2.full.pdf" class="css-yidnqd-InlineLink e1no5rhv0">was linked to people's summer holidays in Spain</a>.</p></div></div><p data-component="crosshead-block" class="css-mysbf6-ComponentWrapper-CrossheadComponentWrapper e1xue1i84"><h2 class="css-qozapo-StyledHeading e1fj1fc10">What do we know about the new mutations?</h2></p><div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>An initial analysis of the new variant has been published and <a href="https://virological.org/t/preliminary-genomic-characterisation-of-an-emergent-sars-cov-2-lineage-in-the-uk-defined-by-a-novel-set-of-spike-mutations/563" class="css-yidnqd-InlineLink e1no5rhv0">identifies 17 potentially important alterations</a>. </p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>There have been changes to the spike protein - this is the key the virus uses to unlock the doorway to our body's cells. </p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>One mutation called N501Y alters the most important part of the spike, known as the "receptor-binding domain".</p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>This is where the spike makes first contact with the surface of our body's cells. Any changes that make it easier for the virus to get inside are likely to give it an edge. </p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>"It looks and smells like an important adaptation," said Prof Loman.</p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>The other mutation - a H69/V70 deletion, in which a small part of the spike is removed - has emerged several times before, including famously in infected mink.</p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>Work by Prof Ravi Gupta at the University of Cambridge has suggested this mutation increases infectivity two-fold in lab experiments. </p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>Prof Gupta told me: "It is rapidly increasing, that's what's worried government, we are worried, most scientists are worried."</p></div></div><p data-component="crosshead-block" class="css-mysbf6-ComponentWrapper-CrossheadComponentWrapper e1xue1i84"><h2 class="css-qozapo-StyledHeading e1fj1fc10">Where has it come from?</h2></p><div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>The variant is unusually highly mutated.</p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>The most likely explanation is the variant has emerged in a patient with a weakened immune system that was unable to beat the virus.</p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>Instead their body became a breeding ground for the virus to mutate. </p></div></div><p data-component="crosshead-block" class="css-mysbf6-ComponentWrapper-CrossheadComponentWrapper e1xue1i84"><h2 class="css-qozapo-StyledHeading e1fj1fc10">Does it make the infection more deadly?</h2></p><div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>There is no evidence to suggest that it does, although this will need to be monitored.</p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>However, just increasing transmission would be enough to cause problems for hospitals. </p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>If the new variant means more people are infected more quickly, that would in turn lead to more people needing hospital treatment.</p></div></div><p data-component="crosshead-block" class="css-mysbf6-ComponentWrapper-CrossheadComponentWrapper e1xue1i84"><h2 class="css-qozapo-StyledHeading e1fj1fc10">Will the vaccines work against the new variant?</h2></p><div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>Almost certainly yes, or at least for now. </p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>All three leading vaccines develop an immune response against the existing spike, which is why the question comes up.</p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>Vaccines train the immune system to attack several different parts of the virus, so even though part of the spike has mutated, the vaccines should still work.</p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>"But if we let it add more mutations, then you start worrying," said Prof Gupta.</p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>"This virus is potentially on a pathway for vaccine escape, it has taken the first couple of steps towards that."</p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>Vaccine escape happens when the virus changes so it dodges the full effect of the vaccine and continues to infect people.</p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>This may be the most concerning element of what is happening with the virus.</p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>This variant is just the latest to show the virus is continuing to adapt as it infects more and more of us. </p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>A presentation by Prof David Robertson, from the University of Glasgow on Friday, concluded: "<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G3CT9N89L-c&amp;feature=youtu.be" class="css-yidnqd-InlineLink e1no5rhv0">The virus will probably be able to generate vaccine escape mutants</a>."</p></div></div>
<div data-component="text-block" class="css-uf6wea-RichTextComponentWrapper e1xue1i83"><div class="css-83cqas-RichTextContainer e5tfeyi2"><p>That would put us in a position similar to flu, where the vaccines need to be regularly updated. Fortunately the vaccines we have are very easy to tweak.</p></div></div>

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<li><a href="/david/cache/2020/dec7beb9f41f89811b9f7df843f31422/" title="Accès à l’article dans le cache local : New coronavirus variant: What do we know?">New coronavirus variant: What do we know?</a> (<a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/health-55388846" title="Accès à l’article original distant : New coronavirus variant: What do we know?">original</a>)</li>
<li><a href="/david/cache/2020/384b330b3de6f4f2bac8c81f0f04c404/" title="Accès à l’article dans le cache local : Atlanta Asks Google Whether It Targeted Black Homeless People">Atlanta Asks Google Whether It Targeted Black Homeless People</a> (<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/04/technology/google-facial-recognition-atlanta-homeless.html" title="Accès à l’article original distant : Atlanta Asks Google Whether It Targeted Black Homeless People">original</a>)</li>
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<li><a href="/david/cache/2020/eed6c28eb76dfb044c259d4f3ef0e77c/" title="Accès à l’article dans le cache local : La question Facebook. Sysiphe is Scrolling.">La question Facebook. Sysiphe is Scrolling.</a> (<a href="https://www.affordance.info/mon_weblog/2020/08/la-question-facebook.html" title="Accès à l’article original distant : La question Facebook. Sysiphe is Scrolling.">original</a>)</li>
<li><a href="/david/cache/2020/740726bccca1dcd7c8adce3a89e6d933/" title="Accès à l’article dans le cache local : The radium craze">The radium craze</a> (<a href="https://ericwbailey.design/writing/the-radium-craze.html" title="Accès à l’article original distant : The radium craze">original</a>)</li>
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<li><a href="/david/cache/2020/77a2e7a33e053f810089587fea6935ad/" title="Accès à l’article dans le cache local : Situer le numérique">Situer le numérique</a> (<a href="https://situer-le-numerique.netlify.app/" title="Accès à l’article original distant : Situer le numérique">original</a>)</li>
<li><a href="/david/cache/2020/53ab3ec175cd3b4b15710575cde2826a/" title="Accès à l’article dans le cache local : More people are getting COVID-19 twice, suggesting immunity wanes quickly in some">More people are getting COVID-19 twice, suggesting immunity wanes quickly in some</a> (<a href="https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/11/more-people-are-getting-covid-19-twice-suggesting-immunity-wanes-quickly-some" title="Accès à l’article original distant : More people are getting COVID-19 twice, suggesting immunity wanes quickly in some">original</a>)</li>
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<li><a href="/david/cache/2020/3d3e8962a6319ee4d41a75b1cd5abd38/" title="Accès à l’article dans le cache local : How the novel coronavirus has evolved">How the novel coronavirus has evolved</a> (<a href="https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/EVOLUTION/yxmpjqkdzvr/index.html" title="Accès à l’article original distant : How the novel coronavirus has evolved">original</a>)</li>
<li><a href="/david/cache/2020/f57f8dd77b7db122d0a911e9a22d116e/" title="Accès à l’article dans le cache local : Liberté, mode d’emploi">Liberté, mode d’emploi</a> (<a href="https://le1hebdo.fr/journal/libert/305/article/libert-mode-d-emploi-3959.html" title="Accès à l’article original distant : Liberté, mode d’emploi">original</a>)</li>
<li><a href="/david/cache/2020/5abb317f078fc9f585712bfa3f772504/" title="Accès à l’article dans le cache local : Exclusive: Apple dropped plan for encrypting backups after FBI complained - sources">Exclusive: Apple dropped plan for encrypting backups after FBI complained - sources</a> (<a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-apple-fbi-icloud-exclusive-idUSKBN1ZK1CT" title="Accès à l’article original distant : Exclusive: Apple dropped plan for encrypting backups after FBI complained - sources">original</a>)</li>

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Markdown==3.1.1
httpx==0.13.3
minicli==0.4.4
readability-lxml==0.7.1
readability-lxml==0.8.1

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