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A New Covid-19 Mutation That Could Allow The Virus To Evade Immunity Has Been Detected In England

A New Covid-19 Mutation That Could Allow The Virus To Evade Immunity Has Been Detected In England

Research suggests the variant could allow Covid-19 to evade the body's immune response (PA)

2 min read

A new mutation of the Covid-19 virus, which has been seen to evade immunity in some cases, has been detected in the more-transmissible Kent variant.

Scientists have found evidence of the E484K mutation, which has already been seen in new variants in South Africa and Brazil, in the new UK coronavirus variant first found in Kent.

Only 11 out of 214,159 samples tested by Public Health England were found to have the mutation, which some research suggests could allow the virus to bypass the body’s immune system.

It comes as the UK steps up mass testing in selected postcodes nationwide in an attempt to halt the spread of the South African strain of the virus.

Over 80,000 people are expected to be called for testing, with local authorities going door to door in eight postcodes to deliver home testing kits. 

Dr Julian Tang, Honorary Associate Professor and Clinical Virologist at the University of Leicester, said the presence of the E484K mutation was “a worrying development, though not entirely unexpected”.

He suggested that its appearance could be due to the UK variant coming into contact with the South African or Brazilian variant by co-infecting the same cell, though noted that this was “rarer with coronaviruses”.

Others suggest that the gene could have appeared independently as part of the virus’ natural evolution, promoting concerns that border controls will not help halt its transmission.

“From a virological standpoint, appearance of new variants by mutation during replication cannot be considered surprising,” said Dr Jonathan Stoye, group leader of the Retrovirus-Host Interactions Laboratory at the Francis Crick Institute.

“Whether this change will provide significant growth advantages for the novel virus causing it to predominate remains to be seen.  

“This report would seem to suggest that under conditions of very high levels of virus replication even the most stringent of border controls, although they may delay spread, are unlikely to prevent the appearance of new variants.”

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