A new “variant” of the coronavirus has emerged in the UK. This was announced on December 14 by the British Minister of Health Matt Hancock to justify a toughening of anti-covid measures in London and in the south-east of the country. This new version could indeed be involved in the acceleration of transmission observed in England.

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1,000 people infected with this variant

This variant, the result of a mutation of the virus, has been reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) and identified in more than 1,000 people mainly in the south of England. He could be involved in the spread “exponential“of the virus observed in the south-east of England, without anyone knowing”to what extent“, according to Matt Hancock.

Mutations, a normal process

But should we be worried about this discovery? Not for the moment. This is because a virus mutation is a normal process, which is part of the normal way viruses work. Previous variants of SARS-CoV2 had already been observed and reported around the world.

And in itself, a mutation is neither a good nor a bad sign. These may be high impact mutations, which will for example increase or decrease the contagiousness, virulence or lethality of the virus. If the mutation helps the new variant of the virus to spread, it is favorable for the virus. If, on the contrary, it slows it down, it is unfavorable to it.

In this case, the health authorities do not yet know if this strain of the virus is more common than the old one or if it is the variant of the virus itself which manages to be transmitted more easily thanks to the mutation.

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A difference in response to vaccines?

The health authorities want to be reassuring, however, specifying that there is no indication so far that it causes a more serious form of the disease, or that it does not respond to vaccines.

And so far, the mutations observed previously have not had an impact on the ability of vaccines to recognize and protect against new virus variants.

But if ever a stronger mutation occurs and changes the effectiveness of the vaccine, then it would be possible to adapt the vaccine to the new variant. Either way, for Professor Alan McNally of the University of Birmingham it is “too early to worry or not about this new variant“, still under study.