New variant of coronavirus spreads across Europe, warn scientists

RIO – A variant of the coronavirus, which appeared among workers in northeastern Spain in June, has spread rapidly across much of Europe since the summer and is responsible for the majority of new cases of Covid-19 in several countries on the continent, which lives a second wave of infection.

According to the Financial Times, an international team of scientists that tracks the virus through its genetic mutations described the spread of the variant, identified by the acronym 20A.EU1, in an article to be published on Thursday (29). The new strain, reports the British newspaper, is already responsible for more than 80% of cases in the United Kingdom.

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The study, which has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, suggests that people who returned from vacation in Spain played a key role in the transmission of the virus across Europe. This is a possibility that raises questions about whether the second wave that is sweeping the continent could have been reduced with better screening at airports and other transportation centers.

– From the dissemination of 20A.EU1, it seems clear that the measures [de prevenção contra o coronavírus] in effect were often not enough to interrupt the transmission of the variants introduced this summer – Emma Hodcroft, geneticist at the University of Basel (Switzerland) and leader of the study, told the Financial Times.

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Each variant of the virus has its own genetic signature, so it can be traced back to the place of origin. Scientific teams in Switzerland and Spain are examining the behavior of the new strain to determine whether it can be more lethal or infectious than others.

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According to the British newspaper, Emma Hodcroft emphasized that there is “no evidence that the spread [rápida] of the variant is due to a mutation that increases transmission or impacts the clinical outcome ”. But he stressed that 20A.EU1 it was unlike any version of the Sars-Cov-2 she had encountered previously.

“I haven’t seen any variant with that kind of dynamics since I started looking at coronavirus genomic sequences in Europe,” Hodcroft told the Financial Times.

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Scientists are working with virology laboratories to find out if the 20A.EU1 carries a specific mutation in the spike protein, which the virus uses to enter human cells, capable of altering their behavior.

Mutations are changes in the “letters” of the virus’ genetic code, which can be grouped into new variants and strains. A mutation had already been identified in Sars-Cov-2, called D614G, which scientists believe to make the virus more infectious.

– We need more studies to find mutations that hit high frequency in the population and then reverse engineer to see if they make the virus more transmissible – Yale University genetic epidemiologist Joseph Fauver, who was not involved, told the British newspaper in research.

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