Is Botswana the alternative behind the sudden wave of Covid in South Africa?

Concerns are growing that a new alternative to Botswana Covid is causing the number of cases to rise in neighboring South Africa.

South Africa’s national infection rate has increased more than fivefold in the past week since the variant was first discovered on November 11.

Only 22 infections of B.1.1.529, its scientific name, have been officially detected in the country so far, with a cluster in Gauteng County.

Public health experts in South Africa revealed today that it has been detected in nearly every province, and is already in three countries – including Hong Kong.

The alert about the variant was first raised yesterday after it was revealed that it contains 32 mutations and is the most advanced version of Covid to date.

Concerned South African health chiefs revealed at a hastily organized press conference today that the variant may outperform the dominant delta variant because it can infect vaccinated people more easily.

Professor Tulio de Oliveira, director of Covid surveillance in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province, admitted that experts were still “unsure” about the impact of the variable on the epidemic in the country.

But he explained that the virus has five times more mutations in the specific part of the spike that the antibodies bind to than in the delta.

British experts told MailOnline yesterday that it is likely to present with a long-term infection in an immunocompromised patient, possibly someone with undiagnosed AIDS.

The Botswana variant contains a wide range of modifications to the spike protein, which is thought to make it resistant to vaccines.

The current punches are training the immune system to recognize an older version of this part of the virus.

They added that South Africa has good Covid surveillance thanks to its experience with HIV/AIDS.

The World Health Organization is expected to assign the name “No” to this variant in the coming days, which is the next letter available in the Greek alphabet.

Professor Tulio de Oliveira, who directs Covid surveillance in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province, warned that B.1.1.529 is likely to be more widespread.

He told a press briefing that the samples that were detected from November 12 to 20 are mostly from Gauteng province.

He added: ‘This strain has a very high number of mutations with concern over expected immune evasion.

“[But] Although it was discovered here very quickly, this does not mean that it is from South Africa.

What is the new variant of ‘Botswana’ B.1.1.529?

Should I be worried?

Scientists say Britons should not be “overly concerned” about the alternative.

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

But this has not yet been backed up by lab tests or real-world data.

Where were the cases detected?

26 cases have been detected so far.

There are three in Botswana and 22 in South Africa.

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

The outbreak in South Africa is concentrated in Gauteng, Limpopo and Northwest Province. Two of these are recording a sharp rise in injuries.

No cases have been recorded in Britain so far. British officials said they are monitoring the situation closely.

Can the strain evade the immunity caused by the vaccine?

Scientists say mutations of the strains suggest they are better able to evade immunity than vaccines.

Some cautioned that it “looks like” it could be better at dodging punches than all the other variants, including the South African Betta breed.

South African scientists said many of the infections in their country have been detected in people believed to have immunity from previous vaccines or infections.

It carries the K417N and E484A mutations, which are similar to those in the beta version making it more resistant to buns.

But it also has the N440K, found in Delta, and S477N, mutations in the New York variant, which can also make it more resistant.

B.1.1.529 also carries the P681H and N679K mutations which are rarely seen together on a specific part of the spike protein.

South African scientists said many infections have been detected in people believed to have immunity from vaccines or a previous infection.

Dr Simon Clark, a microbiologist at the University of Reading, told MailOnline that it wasn’t clear if this variant had just emerged or if it had been around for a while.

He said: ‘South Africans are well monitored because of their experience with HIV.

And on that basis, they don’t seem to be picking it up in large numbers just yet.

“[But] We need to be careful here because we have transmissibility and this breed is very rare.

“It could be because it doesn’t fit, or maybe because it’s too new.”

Yesterday, British experts sounded the alarm about the Covid strain, which is believed to have appeared in Botswana.

About 26 cases have now been detected globally, most of them in South Africa.

The first case was identified in Botswana on November 11, followed by South Africa on November 12.

A case was also detected in Hong Kong on November 13 of a 36-year-old man who had traveled back from South Africa on November 11.

In South Africa, it has been spotted in the provinces of Gauteng, Limpopo and Northwest.

It carries 32 mutations, many of which indicate that it is highly transmissible and vaccine-resistant, and has more spike protein changes than any other species.

It is likely to appear in residual infection in an immunocompromised patient, possibly someone with undiagnosed AIDS, Professor Francois Balloux, a geneticist at University College London, said.

Changes in altitude make it difficult to fight off current punches, as 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 caught the outbreak, described the changing array of mutations as “appalling”.

And he warned that the scientific name, B.1.1.529, was likely “worse than almost anything else” – including the world’s dominant delta strain.

Scientists tell MailOnline, however, that the unprecedented number of mutations may work against it and make it ‘unstable’, preventing it from spreading widely.

They said there was “no need for excessive concern” because there were no signs yet of it spreading quickly.

Three infections have been detected in Botswana so far and six in South Africa – where variable monitoring is even more robust.

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

There are no cases in Britain. But the UK’s Health Security Agency, which succeeds Public Health England, said it was monitoring the situation closely.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesperson said the alternative was “not seen as a problem” for the UK at the moment.

The mutated variant has raised concern because of the ‘too broad’ range of mutations.

Prof Francois Balloux, a geneticist at University College London, said it was likely that the alternative would be more able to evade the Delta antibodies.

He told MailOnline: ‘For now, they need to be closely monitored.

“But you don’t have to worry excessively, unless you start to rise more frequently.”

His numerous mutations, he said, suggest it may have emerged during a long-term infection in an immunocompromised person, such as an AIDS patient.

In patients with weakened immune systems, the infection can persist for several months because the body is unable to fight it.

This gives the virus time to acquire mutations that allow it to bypass the body’s defenses.

Scientists previously said that Kent’s “alpha” variant may have appeared in this way.

Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist at Warwick Medical School, said it “appears” that this mutant strain could be better at evading vaccine-induced immunity than other mutations based on its own.

But he added, ‘It’s always hard to tell just by looking [mutations]Much depends on how the immune system sees the change and responds.

‘But it seems only because of the heavy load of [mutations] – Some we know very little about in terms of transmission damage – looks like it could be a little more volatile than the South African variant.

It’s hard to tell if the virus is more transmissible from Delta at this point, he said.

Professor David Livermore, a microbiologist at the University of East Anglia, said the Botswana variant had raised concern because of its “extremely broad” range of mutations.

This increases the risk of vaccine escape, he said, but it doesn’t prove it happens.

The infection of the strain is also not obvious, and it will also be affected by the structure of the strain.

The Botswana variant carries K417N and E484A mutations similar to those in the South African “beta” variant that made it more able to avoid vaccines.

But it also contains N440K, which is in Delta, and S477N, in the New York variant, which is also associated with antibody escaping.

The variant also contains the P681H and N679K mutations which together are rarely seen and can make it more resistant to cracking.

The N501Y mutation that makes viruses more transmissible has been previously seen in the Kent ‘Alpha’ and Beta variant among others.

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

Dr Mira Chand, from UKHSA, said the UK Health Security Agency, in partnership with scientific bodies around the world, is constantly monitoring the status of SARS-CoV-2 variants as they emerge and evolve around the world.

Because it is in the nature of viruses to mutate frequently and randomly, it is not unusual for small numbers of cases to arise involving new combinations of mutations. Any variants that show evidence of prevalence are quickly evaluated.

It comes as cases of Covid continue to rise across the UK, but deaths and hospitalizations are still trending sharply downward.

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

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