New coronavirus variant under investigation in UK

The variant, which is understood to have originated in the UK, was designated a ‘variant under investigation’ on February 24.

New coronavirus variant under investigation in UK

Scientists have identified 16 cases of a new coronavirus variant in the UK, Public Health England (PHE) has announced.

Cases of the variant, referred to as VUI-202102/04, were first identified on February 15 through genomic horizon scanning.

PHE said on Thursday that all individuals who tested positive and their contacts have been traced and advised to isolate.

The variant, which is understood to have originated in the UK, was designated a “variant under investigation” (VUI) on February 24.

New variants emerge regularly and experts are conducting frequent analysis to see which are of concern, and which are not.

The latest identified variant, also known as B.1.1.318, contains the E484K mutation, which is found in two other VUIs present in the UK, but it does not feature the N501Y mutation that is present in all VOCs, PHE said.

The findings mean there are now four VUIs and four VOCs being tracked by scientists in the UK.

Other VUIs include one from Brazil, known as P2, which has had 43 probable or confirmed cases identified in the UK, but is not causing scientists serious concern.

PHE said that, as of Wednesday, a total of 26 cases of the P2 variant had been found in England where no travel links could be established.

Two further VUIs – dubbed A.23.1 with E484K and B.1.525 – have seen 78 and 86 probable or confirmed UK cases detected respectively.

Both were first detected in the UK in December.

Additional testing is currently being made available for targeted areas of England to suppress the spread of VOCs.

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

This variant of concern – known as P.1 – was detected in Brazil and in travellers from Brazil to Japan, and was associated with a surge of cases in Manaus late last year.

Six cases of this variant of concern have been found in the UK – three in Scotland and three in England.

On Tuesday, the hunt for a missing person infected with the Manaus variant of coronavirus had been narrowed down to 379 households in the south east of England, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.

Elsewhere, additional testing in targeted parts of London and Stockton-on-Tees, in County Durham, aims to suppress the spread of the South African variant of concern, which was first sequenced in the UK in December 2020.

PHE said that, as of Wednesday, a total of 59 cases of the South African variant have been found in England where there were no travel links.

Another VOC is the UK/Kent variant called B117 which was first detected in the UK and first sequenced in the country in September 2020.

A fourth VOC is the UK/Kent variant + E484K mutation, which was first detected in Bristol and is the B117 variant with the genetic change also found in both the South African and Brazilian VOCs, E484K.

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