Digital Desk, New Delhi. The new COVID-19 variant, B.1.1529, detected in South Africa, primarily affects people under the age of 25, where the vaccination rate against the virus is only 26 percent. Health officials gave this information.
Professor Anne von Gottberg of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases said that so far the variant has been detected in about 100 genomes. Times Live reported, South African Health Minister Joe Fahla said of the affected group, they are at great risk. Professor Tulio de Oliveira, a KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (CRISP) genome sequencer, said the new variant is believed to be related to immune-evasion and transmission.
The country has reported 22 positive cases of the variant following a genomic sequencing collaboration between the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD), a division of the National Health Laboratory Service and private laboratories. In addition, other NGS-SA laboratories are confirming more cases as sequencing results come out. It is not surprising that a new variant has been detected in South Africa, commented Professor Adrian Pooran, Executive Director, NICD. Although data are limited, our experts are working overtime with all established monitoring systems to understand the new variant. The development is happening at a rapid pace and we assure the public that we will keep them informed.
Confirmed cases are increasing rapidly, especially in Gauteng, North West and Limpopo. Michelle Grom, head of the Department of Public Health Surveillance and Response at NICD, said provincial health officials are on high alert and prioritizing the sequencing of COVID-19 positive samples. With Gauteng once again emerging as the epicenter of the fourth wave of the pandemic, it is no surprise that the province has recorded the highest number of infections from the B.1.1.529 variant, South African news outlets reported. While both Johannesburg and Tshwane were considered hotspots for past waves, for now the focus is on the capital. Areas such as Pretoria West, Atridgeville, Centurion, Hatfield and Soshanguwe were identified as cause for concern.
Professor de Oliveira said, “This version has surprised us, it is a huge leap forward in development.” South Africa has a large collaborative genomic surveillance network, which includes detecting and researching variants and controlling outbreaks. CRISP is the main investigative organization of this network. De Oliveira said it had many more mutations than scientists expected, especially after a severe third wave, which was driven by the delta variant. The report said that about 90 percent of such cases were from Gauteng. The team is preparing data from other provinces.
Another scientist pointed out that there were early indications from clinical laboratory tests that the variant may already be present in several other provinces, although he cautioned that this was based on a small number of positive PCR tests. Richard Lessells, an infectious disease specialist involved in monitoring the Kovid-19 variant, said cases in other provinces are not increasing to the same extent, but it gives us concern that this variant could spread much more widely in the country.
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