Vietnam discovers new coronavirus variant with UK, Indian mutations

By Thu Anh   May 28, 2021 | 08:00 pm PT
Vietnam discovers new coronavirus variant with UK, Indian mutations
Swab samples are tested for Covid-19 in a laboratory in Bac Giang, May 26, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh.
Vietnam has detected a coronavirus hybrid variant with characteristics from the existing Indian and U.K. variants, the Ministry of Health announced Saturday.

Minister Nguyen Thanh Long said genetic sequencing on several Covid-19 patients in Vietnam have revealed the presence of two common coronavirus variants: one first discovered in the U.K. and the other from India.

The U.K. variant is believed to be more transmissible than ordinary strains, while the Indian variant is both more transmissible and potentially less susceptible to neutralizing antibodies of the immune system, experts said.

But a new coronavirus variant has recently been detected in Vietnam with characteristics from both the U.K. and the Indian variants. More specifically, it is an Indian variant with mutations that originally belong to the U.K. variant.

Genetic sequencing by National Institute Of Hygiene And Epidemiology found at least four Covid-19 patients in the country carry the hybrid variant.

Le Thi Quynh Mai, deputy head of the institute, said: "We discovered the Y144 deletion on spike protein S of the B.1.617.2 variant. This mutation is similar to the one found on the B.1.1.7 variant."

The B.1.617.2 was first found in India and the B.1.1.7 in the U.K.

Mai said such mutation on the Indian variant is not yet recorded by GISAID, a global science initiative and primary source that provides open-access to genomic data of influenza viruses and the coronavirus responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic. Thus it needs to be monitored and researched further, she said.

Long said the Ministry of Health would announce the new coronavirus variant on the global genome map, adding that the new variant has yet to be named.

Vietnam's latest coronavirus wave since about a month ago has seen 3,595 local Covid-19 cases so far in 33 cities and provinces. Bac Giang still leads the number of coronavirus infections at 1,881, followed by neighbor Bac Ninh at 736.

Long said the coronavirus responsible for the new wave is much more transmissible, especially in the air. Viral cultures in the laboratory revealed that the virus replicated itself very quickly, he added, explaining why there are so many new cases in different locations in a shorter time frame.

So far, Vietnam has recorded the presence of seven coronavirus variants, including ones from the U.K, India and South Africa.

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