Brazil variant: How many new strains of coronavirus are there? What are symptoms?

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Mutations of Covid-19 have been sparking concern around the globe with new strains spotted in several countries. One of these originated in England, but the latest has come from Brazil and was first identified in Japan. This week Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he is “concerned” about the new coronavirus variant which is believed to have emerged in Brazil but he stopped short of imposing a precautionary travel ban.

The Prime Minister insisted “extra measures” are being taken to protect against the strain as he acknowledged it is unclear how effective existing vaccines will be against it.

On Wednesday Mr Johnson faced intense questioning from Yvette Cooper, the chair of the Commons home affairs committee, as she called on him to take “immediate action on a precautionary basis”.

She said three days had passed since the Government had learned of the variant but there currently nothing in place to stop arrivals coming from the country.

Mr Johnson told the Commons liaison committee: “We are concerned about the new Brazilian variant.

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“There remained many questions about the variant, including whether it would be resistant to the vaccines.”

The Brazilian variant was reported by Japan who told the World Health Organisation (WHO) following a sharp rise in cases in recent weeks.

The Government’s top scientist said the Brazilian variant contains “a change of the genetic code, at position 484, and that changes a part of the protein, it changes a bit of a shape of the protein”.

Prof de Oliveria, who is leading South Africa’s effort to understand the new strain, said: “We know that B.1.1.248 has one mutation that is shared with the variant in the UK and South Africa, and that’s the mutation at position N501Y.

“This is one of the mutations that… is associated with fast transmission.” 

How many new strains of coronavirus are there? What are symptoms?

Covid-19 has undergone both minor and major mutations since it was first discovered in early 2020, and scientists believe there could be more on the way.

Strains have emerged in South Africa, the UK, Denmark, China and Brazil – making five significant mutations.

As yet no significant differences in symptoms from these variants have been recorded, but some are believed to have higher transmission rates.

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Brazil Mutation

In January 2021, a mutation of Covid-19 was found in Japan by the Japanese National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID), but this was believed to have originated in Brazil.

Four travellers from Brazil arrived in Japan with the variant.

Currently, the NIID say there is “no proof” this variant is more transmissible than previous versions of the virus.

However, Cambridge University microbiology professor Ravi Gupta has said the Brazilian variant has three key mutations which “largely mirror” those in the hyper-infectious South African variant “hence the concern”.

This is due to the same N501 mutation other more infectious strains have.

UK Mutation

The UK variant was reported on December 14, 2020 and is now known as VOC 202012/01 – which stands for variant of concern, year 2020, variant 01.

A patient in Kent in south England was first identified with the mutation of the virus, and it quickly spread to nearby London.

Reports suggest this variant could be up to 70 percent more transmissible than the original virus.

The South African variant was announced by authorities on December 18, 2020 and was found to be spreading rapidly.

Found in Eastern Cape, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal this variant – named 501Y.V2 – has become the most dominant version of the virus in the country.

The name is given due to the the N501Y mutation found in the spike protein, which was also present in the UK strain and thought to be more transmissible.

Denmark Variant

Known as the mink variant, this mutation found in Denmark was one of the earliest recorded mutations, found in June 2020.

Since June, 214 human cases of Covid-19 have been identified in Denmark with variants associated with farmed minks.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) wrote of the strain: “The variant, referred to as the ‘Cluster 5’ variant by Danish authorities, had a combination of mutations not previously observe.”

The WHO added these may be concerning and could “result in reduced virus neutralization in humans, which could potentially decrease the extent and duration of immune protection following natural infection or vaccination.”

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