The UK’s Alpha variant became one of the most highly transmitted forms of the virus, which led to other variants mutating into existence – now, scientists are picking up on the beginnings of a “Mexican variant”
A research team at the Department of Pharmacy and Biotechnology of the University of Bologna looked at over one million samples of the COVID genome sequences. This is how they found a new, emerging variant – known as T478K, or informally as the “Mexican variant”.
The new variant is yet to be named under the WHO system. However, scientists at Bologna were “alarmed” by the rate of transmission exhibited by this mutated virus. They believe that the new variant is responsible for 52.8% of cases in Mexico.
Where is the “Mexican variant”?
Currently, T478K is in Mexico and the United States. It is just about present in Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland. It is even less present in Italy, which has four recorded cases of the new variant. It is only responsible for 2.7% of cases in the US so far. The variant appears to be targeting across genders and age ranges in the same way.
The mutation that makes this variant dangerous
The mutation that shapes this variant is located in a region of the Spike protein that is responsible for the interaction with the human receptor ACE2. This is the mechanism allowing coronaviruses to access the cells. Similar mutations are common to all variants that have been at the centre of attention in the past few months.
This mutation makes it easier to get infected.
‘Rate and speed’ is like the British variant, says Professor
Federico Giorgi, study coordinator and a professor at the Department of Pharmacy and Biotechnology of the University of Bologna, said: “This variant has been increasingly spreading among people in North America, particularly in Mexico. To date, this variant covers more than 50% of the existing viruses in this area. The rate and speed of the spread recall those of the ‘British variant’.
“The mutation of the Spike protein is structurally located in the region of interaction with human receptor ACE2. Coronaviruses attach to this receptor to infect cells, thus spreading the infection with more efficacy”.
Scientists believe that action will need to be taken quickly, to prevent this variant from fuelling hospitalisations and deaths globally.
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