WSJ: “The World Health Organization team investigating the origins of Covid-19 is planning to scrap an interim report on its recent mission to China amid mounting tensions between Beijing and Washington over the investigation and an appeal from one international group of scientists for a new probe. A group of two dozen scientists is calling in an open letter on Thursday for a new international inquiry. They say the WHO team that last month completed a mission to Wuhan—the Chinese city where the first known cases were found—had insufficient access to adequately investigate possible sources of the new coronavirus, including whether it slipped from a laboratory.”
Open Letter Link “Call for a Full and Unrestricted International Forensic Investigation into the Origins of COVID-19”
Over 450 cases of the South Africa coronavirus variant 501Y.V2 have been diagnosed in Israel so far, and health professionals estimate that dozens more are being infected each day.
The Israeli Health Ministry’s committees on vaccinations and the pandemic said two weeks ago that the B.1.351 or 501Y.V2 variant was spreading beyond control.
A new study has shown people previously infected by the Covid-19 variant 501Y.V2, originally identified in South Africa, have better immunity against other coronavirus mutations, experts said Wednesday.
The findings, from preliminary research by the team of South African scientists who identified the variant dubbed 501Y.V2, raise hopes that vaccines modelled on the strain could protect against future mutations.
Identified late last year, the variant fuelled South Africa’s second wave of infection and delayed the start of vaccinations in February.
Scientists said Wednesday plasma collected from people infected with the variant had “good neutralising activity”, including against “first wave” viruses and potentially other variants of concern.
After the antibodies were tested against the original strain and another identified in Brazil, “results are showing a clear sense of direction”, virologist Tulio de Oliveira said in a video conference.
Medrxiv preprint “Escape of SARS-CoV-2 501Y.V2 from neutralization by convalescent plasma”
We analyzed SARS-CoV-2 samples collected from various regions of Slovakia between November and December 2020 that were presumed to contain the B.1.1.7 variant due to traveling history of the virus carriers or their contacts. Sequencing of these isolates revealed that although in some cases the samples were indeed confirmed as B.1.1.7, a substantial fraction of isolates contained another ∆H69/∆V70 carrying mutant belonging to the lineage B.1.258, which has been circulating in Central Europe since August 2020, long before the import of B.1.1.7. Phylogenetic analysis shows that the early sublineage of B.1.258 acquired the N439K substitution in the receptor binding domain (RBD) of the Spike protein and, later on, also the deletion ∆H69/∆V70 in the Spike N-terminal domain (NTD). This variant is particularly common in several European countries including Czech Republic and Slovakia, and we propose to name it B.1.258∆.
A health professional at a hospital in L’Aquila, Italy, was infected with the variant Brazilian P.1 of the new coronavirus, even after being immunized with the vacina pharmaceutical company Pfizer in partnership with BioNTech. The strain was identified in periodic examinations and analyzed by the Abruzzo and Molise experimental zooprophylaxis institutes.
According to reports, the patient would have contracted the mother’s virus after six occurrences of the disease were recorded in his family. Fortunately, none of them show symptoms, but the hospital’s doctors will analyze whether the other infections are also linked to the Brazilian variant.
Researchers have found two new mutations in coronavirus samples from Amravati and Yavatmal districts of eastern Maharashtra, India, which can escape neutralizing antibodies. However, in none of the samples for which genome sequencing was done, the UK, South African or Brazilian strains of the virus were found, he added.
Yavatmal and Amravati are among the districts in the state which have shown a considerable increase in new cases in the last one week.
Genome sequencing was done for 24 samples — four each from Amravati, Yavatmal and Satara and 12 from Pune — said Dr Rajesh Karyekarte, Head of Department of Microbiology at the state-run B J Medical College and Sassoon General Hospital in Pune.
“We were asked by the state government to conduct genome sequencing of samples. The D614G strain which is prevalent was found in all the samples,” he said. But in Amravati, Yavatmal and Satara, they also came across different mutations, Dr Karyekarte said.
In Amravati, we came across a mutation named E484K in all the four samples. When we inquired if all samples belonged to one family, we were told they were taken from different locations, so the conclusion was that it was a common mutation,” he said.
The character of the strain found in Amravati is that it escapes neutralizing antibodies, he said.
“In a nutshell, even if there are neutralizing antibodies in the human body, the particular mutation escapes or saves itself from these antibodies,” Dr Karyekarte said.
In Yavatmal samples, they found a mutation named N440K, which is commonly seen in Andhra Pradesh, he said.
“It was also found in a case of re-infection in Delhi. This mutation too can escape the neutralizing antibodies and cause re-infection,” he added.
By Satish Madiwale – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47211602
This what we know about the strain found in San Luis Potosí, Mexico: The mutation is known as E-484k and it was also identified in people from Jalisco and Tamaulipas. However, unlike the PFS patient, the other residents did have contact with foreigners.
According to specialists, the E484K mutation recognizes the virus less, which can reduce neutralization by antibodies, it can also evade immune protection due to vaccination.
The health authorities highlighted that the patient showed a favorable evolution without the need for hospitalization.
The Brazilian variant called P.1, which is related to the San Luis Potosí strain, has already appeared in several Latin American countries such as Mexico, the World Health Organization ( WHO ) reported.
If it is not associated with the Brazilian strain of Covid-19, it would be a new strain of the virus, said Andreu Comas García, a doctor at the UASLP.
Sofía Bernal, one of the doctors who coordinates the University Laboratory, assured that more variants of COVID-19 that circulate in the world will reach Mexico, for which she called for reinforcing prevention measures at all times.
The New Finnish variant Fin-796H shares with the South African variant the key mutation 484K that has been claimed to be central in the impaired vaccine protection. Furthermore, the Fin-796H variant has mutations in the genomic area coding the N gene.
The variant Fin-796H has genomic features from both the British and South African SARS-CoV-2 variants but is distinct from these and other published variants.
The new variant was detected during the sequence analysis of SARS-CoV-2 spike-gene for clinical samples in the Institute of Biotechnology. The variant has unique features and the combination of S gene mutations is clearly novel, stated by Petri Auvinen , Research Director at the Institute of Biotechnology.
“..the most immediate threat to public health is recombination of other coronaviruses with SARS-CoV-2. Such recombination could readily produce further novel viruses with both the infectivity of SARS-CoV-2 and additional pathogenicity or viral tropism from elsewhere in the Coronaviridae”
The most prominent result for a SARS-CoV-2 recombination host is the domestic pig (Sus scrofa), having the most predicted associations of all included non-human mammals. The pig is a major known mammalian coronavirus host, harbouring both a large number of observed coronaviruses, as well as a wide diversity. Given the large number of predicted viral associations presented here, the pig’s close association to humans, its known reservoir status for many other zoonotic viruses, and its involvement in genetic recombination of some of these viruses, the pig is predicted to be one of the foremost candidates an important recombination host.
The Israeli Health Ministry said Sunday that the the South African strain B.1351 N501Y.V2 of the virus has been detected in a COVID patient who had previously recovered from the virus. This is the second case of the variant being detected in someone who had already recovered from the illness.
According to the health ministry, since the start of the month there have been 14 cases of the South African variant detected, and 44 detected in total. The Health Ministry added that the patients came into contact with at least 124 people in a chain of 36.