England tests door-to-door in a bid to hunt for new coronavirus variant

Henrietta Brewer
February 4, 2021

She said: "New variants of a virus develop all the time, and coronavirus is no exception".

As the door-to-door testing drive got underway, Public Health England also said scientists had discovered the same spike protein mutation in 11 cases involving another variant that is now the most prevalent form of the virus in England.

"Of particular concern, though, is the emergence of the E484K [South African] mutation, which so far has only been seen in a relatively small number of individuals".

UK COVID-19 variant

In line with this, immediate testing for the variant in South Africa already started in all parts of England and could be rolled out in other sites seeing variants that have the same E484 mutation.

Scientists have found that the Kent variant of Covid-19, which has been spreading around the United Kingdom, appears to be undergoing some worrying new genetic changes.

E484K, which is now in place in the variants that arose in South Africa and Brazil, is believed to help the coronavirus resist vaccines and antibody therapies as well as infect those who have already fought off COVID-19. Julian Tang, from the University of Leicester said, "it is a worrying development", although not totally unexpected. "The best way to stop the spread of the virus - including new variants - is to stay at home and follow the restrictions in place", he said. "Is that something that you're going to do forever, because it looks like these strains may continue to arise in the long term?"

Some research appears to show E484K may help the virus evade parts of the immune system called antibodies. The company has yet to test its vaccine against real-world COVID-19 variants.

Two new Covid-19 vaccines that could be approved soon - one from Novavax and another from Janssen - appear to offer some protection too, the report said.

However, there is no evidence that Covid-19 vaccines that have been approved won't work against the new strain, although results from human clinical trials in South Africa suggest decreased efficiency of these vaccines as against the older variants.

The South African variant, one of thousands since Covid-19 emerged, is not thought to be any more risky than others circulating in the UK.

The announcement was made five days after the Public Health Agency requested tighter arrival controls to minimize the spread of mutated virus strains.

Other reports by iNewsToday