UK Records First Case Of New COVID-19 Variant With High Mutations


The United Kingdom Health Security Agency, UKHSA, has detected the first case of COVID-19 variant BA.2.86, with a “high number of mutations” in the country.

According to the UKHSA, the variant was detected in an individual with no recent travel history.

The “high number of mutations” – 33 to be precise – means that spike proteins, the membranes on the outside of the virus that allow it to enter and infect human cells, will change their shape.

“Having changed their shape, they may become more infectious, they may become more disease-causing,” Bharat Pankhania, an infectious disease control expert from the University of Exeter, told Sky News.

“On the other hand, they may not. We just don’t know yet,” he said.

The BA.2.86 mutation was first detected in Denmark on 24 July and has also been discovered in Israel and the US.

It is thought to be the likely ancestor of the BA.2 variant, nicknamed “stealth Omicron”, which originated in southern Africa and was first detected in the UK by late 2021.

The UKHSA said there is “insufficient data” to assess how serious the BA.2.86 strain might be, or how likely it is that current vaccines will protect against it.

It is “the most striking SARS-CoV-2 strain the world has witnessed since the emergence of Omicron”, Francois Balloux, professor of computational systems biology and director of the University College London Genetics Institute said.

READ ALSO: Police Foil Abduction, Rescue Kidnapped Victim In Delta

However, it is unlikely to cause a fresh wave of severe disease and deaths, or prompt fresh restrictions on people’s daily lives, because most people have some immunity to the illness.

“Even if people get reinfected by BA.2.86, immune memory will still allow their immune system to kick in and control the infection far more effectively,” Prof Balloux said.

“It remains that a large wave of infection by BA.2.86, or any future comparable variant, would be an unwelcome event.”

According to Balloux, it is likely to have emerged in an immunocompromised person – someone who has a weaker immune system – who later spread it.

He said that global vaccination is the best thing to do to reduce infections.

The UKHSA said it is “undertaking detailed assessment” and will provide further information on the new variant in due course.

At the weekend, Meera Chand, the Deputy Director of UKHSA said “We are aware of a confirmed case in the UK. We will provide further information in due course after undertaking detailed assessment.”

Information Nigeria reports that on Thursday, the United health authorities and the World Health Organisation, WHO said they were closely monitoring a new variant of Covid-19.

Although, the potential impact of BA.2.86 is currently unknown as WHO designated the virus as a ‘variant under monitoring’ following the large number of mutations it carries.

The BA.2.86 variant has also been identified in Denmark, Israel and the United States of America.