Just when we thought things were looking up at least a little, because the omicron variant, while being more contagious, often takes a milder course than delta, a new variant has emerged. We do not yet know how dangerous it is, or even where it originated.
The new variant was detected in early December in a traveler who returned to France from Cameroon, the hospital IHU Mediterrannee in Marseille announced. The returnee from Cameroon reportedly infected 12 people in southern France.
This new mutant, called B.1.640.2, has 46 mutations in an “atypical combination,” according to a preprint study that has not yet been peer-reviewed.
According to this study, the two already known spike protein mutations N501Y and E484K are also found in the new coronavirus variant. The N501Y mutation, for example, was detected very early in the alpha variant. It causes the pathogen to bind more strongly to human cells and thus to spread more easily in the body.
E484K is one of the escape mutations located directly in the spike protein and thus possibly reduces the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.
But what these mutations mean and whether the new coronavirus variant B.1.640.2 is actually more contagious than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus cannot yet be said with any real confidence, due to the lack of available data and the small number of cases.
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