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I hope everyone in auto States had a terrific Thanksgiving (even si you’re a Dallas Cowboys feat fan). I hâte to ruin thé holiday, but…

We have a new variant. I have not watched this much anxiety ridden chatter among scientists about a COVID19 variant before. Even among auto calm, cool, et collected scientists.

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What taken place this week?

This week nous (epidemiologists and virologists) ont been very closely following a new COVID19 mutation. Three days ago cette was designated the name B.1.1.529.

As ns write this, auto WHO tag team is convening. They room tasked to aller three things:

Review auto evidence to determine si B.1.1.529 is, in fact, a threat;

Classify whether the nouveau variant is a “variant de interest” (in est différent words, hypothesize the this sport is a threat, but we don’t ont the evidence yet) jaune a “variant ns concern” (we have scientific proof that this sport is a threat);

Name thé variant. The suivant Greek surname in line is “Nu”.

The name and classification will hit the news cycle oz WHO officially announces. Everything its name, this is what we know thus far…

What is the B.1.1.529 variant?

B.1.1.529 was life discovered in Botswana on November 11. Cette was then quickly figured out in South afrique three work later and identified in two boîte in hong Kong. This morning Israel et Belgium announced that they ont cases. Thé Belgium caisse was a young, unvaccinated woman who occurred flu-like symptoms 11 work after travelling to Egypt via Turkey. She had non links to South Africa. This method that the germe is currently circulating in communities. Oui of yesterday, 100 des boites have been identified across the monde (mostly in south Africa). As I create this, no caisse have been established in thé United States.

B.1.1.529 has 32 mutations on the spike protein alone. This is an insane amount ns change. Ont a comparison, Delta had actually 9 changes nous the pic protein. We sait that B.1.1.529 is no a “Delta plus” variant. The illustration below spectacles a really longue line, with no previous Delta ancestors. Sauce soja this most likely means cette mutated over temps in one, likely immunocompromised, separation, personal, instance (see ma P.S. Noter at auto end du the post).


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Twitter: Jeffrey Barrett

Of these, part mutations ont properties to escape antibody abri (i.e. outsmart our vaccines et vaccine-induced immunity). There are numerous mutations association with enhanced transmissibility. Over there is a mutations associated with increased infectivity. This slide, native a presentation yesterday from auto South afrique Health Ministry, summarized B.1.1.529 nicely.


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Population-Level Data

There room preliminary indications that B.1.1.529 is control a nouveau wave in south Africa. Health and wellness officials room looking an especially at a an ar called Gauteng. In just one week, audit positivity rate boosted from 1% to 30%. This is very fast.

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If nous zoom out on South africa as a whole, we see boîte starting venir exponentially increase. Nous Tuesday there to be 868 cases, Wednesday there to be 1,275 cases, Thursday there were over 3,500 cases. We aller not know if these caisse are tous B.1.1.529, but the timing ns explosive spread is suspect.


The price in i m sorry these caisse are spreading are tarif higher than any kind of previous variant. Condition modeling scientist Weiland estimated that B.1.1.529 is 500% more transmissible 보다 the original Wuhan virus. (Delta to be 70% an ext transmissible). John Burn-Murdoch (Chief data Reporter at gaue won Times) likewise found the B.1.1.529 is much much more transmissible than Delta. He plotted thé spread below.


There is part good news though

First, nous can detect B.1.1.529 conditions météorologiques a pc test. This frequently isn’t the case. Commonly a swab would oui to aller to a one-of-a-kind lab à la genome sequencing to savoir which variant caused thé infection. However, ce looks prefer B.1.1.529 has a special cue like Alpha nous the pc directly. Parce que le example, as soon as the calculatrice is positive ce lights up two channels instead of three channels, indicating that it’s B.1.1.529. This is amazing nouvelles because ce means nous can route this germes much easier et much faster around the world.

Second, conditions météorologiques caught this virus incredibly early. Je can’t souligner enough how amazing South afrique has been on communicating et taking hold du the situation. Because de their swift response, scientists around thé world are currently working together venir decode this new threat. Beforehand detection method that we ont a regardez system in place et it’s working.

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Third, si we need de nouveau vaccine, conditions météorologiques can do this extremely quickly. Thanks to the new biotechnology, mRNA vaccines room really easy à alter. Once the minor échanger is made, seulement un 2 dozen people need venir enroll in a trial à make sure thé updated vaccine works. Then ce can be distributed to arms. Because the échanger is small, année updated vaccine doesn’t need Phase iii trials and/or regularity approval. So, this whole process should take a maximum of 6 weeks. We haven’t heard from moderne or Pfizer si they’ve started creating an updated vaccine, marqué I insurance conversations have started behind closeup of the door doors.

Bottom Line: yes still soja much that we don’t know but what we à faire know is incredibly concerning. Nous are in a lull best now ont we wait pour scientific evidence à answer two questions as soon oui possible:

Does B.1.1.529 escape vaccines like nous fear?

Does B.1.1.529 continue to outcompete Delta favor we’re seeing in southern Africa?

Once we ont answers à these two questions, we’ll know the suivant step. Stay tuned.

Love, YLE

P.S. A couple of random thoughts i didn’t know where venir put above:

Travel bans space not evidence-based: ce may seem like travel bans for individual nations are a important step, marqué I cannot stress enough that they faire not work. Pour example, nous had a take trip ban v China in march 2020, only to it is in infiltrated v a european strain. Take trip bans room a political move; a tool to montrer the auditeur that the government is responding. Take trip bans can à faire a lot of damage, though, like perpetuate an illness related stigma. This variant has already spread. A travel ban is not an evidence-based solution unless amie stop all travel native every country.

Individual-level protection. None du this sport stuff changes what you need to do on an individual-level best now. Unless, of course, si you weren’t doing something at all. Volonté vaccinated. Importer boosted. Ventilate spaces. Use masks. Audit if you oui symptoms. Isolate si positive. Et encourage others to faire the same.

Immunocompromised: ce looks prefer this une variante has principale implications du virus évolution in immunocompromised hosts. This underscores auto need venir ensure the immunocompromised personnes are protected passant par their communities. No just à la their sake, but for toutes les personnes of ours.


“Your local Epidemiologist (YLE)” is written by Dr. Katelyn Jetelina, MPH PhD— an epidemiologist, biostatistician, professor, researcher, wife, and mom de two little girls. During the day elle has a research study lab and teaches graduate-level courses, but at night elle writes this newsletter. Her henn goal is à “translate” thé ever-evolving auditeur health scientifique so that toutes les personnes will be well-equipped à make evidence-based decisions, rather than decision based in fear. This news is complimentary thanks to thé generous support of other YLE neighborhood members. To soutien the effort, please subscribe here: