The Kent variant of COVID-19 that is spreading around Europe has mutated, and has raised concerns within the scientific community.
Test samples in the UK have shown evidence of a mutation, known as E484K. This mutation has also been seen in parts of South Africa and Brazil. Out of 214,159 tested samples, 11 samples tested positive for the mutation, according to public health officials and experts in England.
Test samples that showed evidence of this mutation were not observed in individuals who had recently traveled to South Africa, indicating that the mutation is being community-spread. These samples were collected from 8 different postal codes within the UK.
Scientists and medical professionals are concerned but not surprised, saying that mutations within the COVID-19 virus were expected.
Experts are concerned about the effectiveness of current vaccines against the new strain of the virus, and there seems to be a lack of consensus about whether or not they will protect individuals as intended.
Other research suggests that this new strain is capable of eluding parts of the immune system, specifically those tied to immune responses based around vaccination.
Other members of UK medical and scientific teams think that this variant is likely to increase in its numbers. “This variant is identified through genetic sequencing and we sequence between five percent and ten percent of all cases, so you can immediately tell from that that we have a big under-estimation of the number of cases,” said Andrew Hayward, Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at University College London, in an interview with Sky News.
The UK plans to ramp up testing and to continue practicing social distancing measures with these new concerns on the horizon.
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