The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that the novel coronavirus mutation first discovered in the UK has now spread to at least 50 countries. While the South African variant has now spread to at least 20 territories. Further, as some nations have even begun COVID-19 vaccination drives, United Nations (UN) health agency noted that a third new coronavirus "variant of concern", that is found in Japan, might also affect the immune response and requires more research on its behaviour. The WHO said that more the SARS-CoV-2 spreads across the world, the more it will change. SARS-CoV-2 is a virus that causes COVID-19.
"The more the SARS-CoV-2 virus spreads, the more opportunities it has to change. High levels of transmission mean that we should expect more variants to emerge," said the WHO.
More than 1,750 experts from 124 countries - convened by WHO - discussed critical knowledge gaps and research priorities for emerging variants of the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes #COVID19— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) January 13, 2021
👉 https://t.co/7ehrabasSs pic.twitter.com/uxGwDHoZCd
In a statement on January 13, following the day-long meet with 1,750 experts from 124 countries to exchange information on the COVID-19 pandemic, UN agency noted that it is normal for viruses to mutate. However, of all the significant variants reported by several nations till now, only some are associated with increases in transmissibility but not disease severity. WHO said that the research is currently underway to determine if the virus mutations have an impact on public health tools and measures.
“So far an astounding 350 000 sequences have been publicly shared, but most come from just a handful of countries. Improving the geographic coverage of sequencing is critical for the world to have eyes and ears on changes to the virus,” said Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO Technical Lead on COVID-19.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists have now identified ‘escape mutant’ that might have the ability to decrease the efficiency of vaccines. The mutation named E484K has been reportedly found in the variant of the novel coronavirus that was first spotted in South Africa nearly two months ago but has now spread to at least 12 more countries. As per the CNN report, Penny Moore, associate professor at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa called the mutation ‘alarming’.
"We fear this mutation might have an impact, and what we don't know is the extent of the impact," she said.