Facts you should know about the new “French” Corona mutant! ...

After a glimmer of hope, the world experienced after it was revealed that the mutated version of the Corona virus “Omicron”, despite its rapid spread, is usually less dangerous than “Delta”, there were reports that a new mutant of Corona was detected in southern France.

At the beginning of December of last year, the University of Marseille Hospital for Infectious Diseases in Marseille, France, announced the discovery of a new strain in a French returnee from Cameroon, and 12 people living in southern France have so far been infected with it.

But what have scientists discovered so far about the composition of the new mutant? And how dangerous is it? Where and how did it originate?

Unusual combination!

The scientific name for the new mutated version is B.1.640.2 and it carries 46 mutations in an “atypical combination”, according to an as-yet-unpublished study that has not been evaluated by other researchers. This study also showed that the new mutant contains the two known mutations N501Y and E484K in the previous corona mutant. The N501Y mutation, first discovered in the alpha mutant, is believed to make the disease more transmissible into human cells and thus spread more easily in the body. As for the E484K mutation, it is one of the so-called “escape mutations”, which means that it has the ability to escape the effect of corona vaccines and thus weaken their effectiveness.

Danger and origin

The emergence of a new mutant from the Corona virus raises the levels of anxiety among people around the world and raises many questions. However, these questions that revolve around the nature of the composition of the new mutant and whether it is contagious and more dangerous than the original virus, cannot be answered preferably based on the available data and the number of cases low so far.

According to Prof. Jörg Timm, Head of the Institute of Virology at the University Hospital Düsseldorf, the newly discovered mutant is not very dangerous: “The mutant was detected for the first time recently and has proven, at least so far, that it has not spread widely. This is a strong indication It is very clear that it does not have the advantage of fast spreading compared to, for example, “Omicron”, where we had a clear and fast perception through the raw data as a fast spreading mutant.This feature cannot be detected with the new mutant so far, so it is not expected that it will cause us problems. It’s big. But it should definitely put a little question mark on it. But for now that’s how it will be.”

New coronavirus SARS-CoV-2

So far, researchers do not see the danger of the new mutant

On the other hand, there are also many question marks about the origin of the new mutant. The fact that it was first spotted in a person returning from Cameroon does not necessarily mean that the new mutation originated in the central African country. However, the very low vaccination rates there, may help the formation of new mutations of the Corona virus. According to data from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, USA, the vaccination rate in Cameroon is currently about 2.4 percent of the total population.

Experts expect that the slow global vaccination campaigns, may contribute to the emergence and evolution of new mutant constantly around the world. These mutations may be more harmful and dangerous than the previous ones.

Possible causes of mild symptoms

It became known about the rapid spread of the omicron mutant throughout the world. But at the same time, it causes less severe symptoms in most cases, as further studies confirm. The reason behind these mild symptoms is also gradually becoming clear. On the one hand, vaccinated and recovered T cells interact with Omicron, thus protecting most patients from serious symptoms.

It is true that mutations in Amicron have altered the spike protein to the point that antibodies formed by infection or vaccination no longer protect against infection either. Researchers from Cape Town in South Africa have discovered that the immune response acquired by T cells is still operational in 70 to 80 per cent of cases – similar to the previous ‘beta’ and ‘delta’ mutants. The team of researchers concluded that the T cells of the vaccinated and recovered people recognized the Amicron mutant well, as was the case with the original Wuhan mutant.

Less damage to the lungs

Researchers from Japan and the USA discovered in animal experiments that the Omicron mutant rarely attacks the lungs. Instead, the mutant tends to attack the upper respiratory tract such as the nose, throat and trachea, according to the study, which has not yet been evaluated.

In mid-December, researchers from the University of Hong Kong came to very similar conclusions. They found that the omicron mutant infects the bronchial system and replicates up to 70 times faster than the delta variant, but spreads 10 times less in lung tissue.

Need for artificial respiration?

These research findings coincide with observations from Britain, where the highly contagious omicron mutant is causing a sharp increase in infections there. But at the same time, the risk of needing hospital treatment is reduced by a third compared to the “delta” mutant. The number of patients requiring artificial respiration is also largely unchanged despite the remarkably high incidence of Omicron. This is hopeful, but is still not entirely clear. Because the high numbers of casualties pose a major challenge to overburdened health systems. Especially for those who have not been vaccinated or have never been infected with the virus, Omicron infection may cause severe symptoms of the disease.

The first infection with “Florona” in Israel

In Israel, a 31-year-old pregnant woman contracted the coronavirus and the seasonal influenza virus at the same time. It is the first recorded case in the world known as “Florona”, which is a double infection with influenza and the Corona virus. The pregnant woman did not receive the vaccination and had mild symptoms, according to the Israeli Ministry of Health.

With the number of flu cases on the rise in Israel in the past few weeks, the Ministry of Health is investigating the case to see if what has come to be known as “Florona” may cause more serious illnesses.

Israel has seen a particularly large increase in severe influenza cases during this winter. According to The Times of Israel, nearly 2,000 people with influenza had been hospitalized by the end of 2021. Health authorities fear that many double diseases may emerge with the spread of the severe flu wave.

Alexander Freund/EM

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