New Covid-19 variants, which could make the virus more contagious and compromise protection against vaccines and antibodies, spread rapidly in dozen of countries on Wednesday, the World Health Organization said.
In its most recent epidemiological update, the UN Department of Health announced that the more contagious variant of Covid-19, first discovered in the UK, had spread to 70 countries in every region of the world by January 25.
This variant, which is known as VOC 202012/01 and has been shown to be easier to transmit than previous variants of the virus, spread to ten other countries in the past week.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson also warned last week that new studies had shown the exposure could be more deadly, but WHO stressed on Wednesday that these “results are preliminary and further analysis is needed to further confirm these results”.
The WHO also said the variant of the virus, first found in South Africa, has now spread to 31 countries, eight more than a week ago.
Laboratory tests have shown that this variant 501Y.V2 “is less susceptible to antibody neutralization” than previous variants, according to the WHO.
This has raised serious concerns that the variant poses an increased risk of re-infection and could also affect the effectiveness of the growing number of Covid-19 vaccines coming to market.
WHO said more studies were needed but stressed that observational studies in South Africa did not show an increased risk of re-infection.
While studies by the US biotech company Moderna showed that its vaccine may be less effective against the variant, “the neutralizing titers remain above the expected protective values”.
WHO said a third variant of the virus, first discovered in Brazil, is now present in eight countries, down from just two a week ago.
This variant, called P1, has raised similar concerns that it could be more contagious or cause more serious illness.
“Further studies are needed to determine whether these new variants result in changes in the transmissibility, severity or activity to neutralize antibodies,” said the WHO.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and published from a syndicated feed.)