Swiss researchers have identified a new SARS-CoV-2 variant that has spread throughout Europe in recent months. Among other things, the relaxation of travel restrictions made it easy for the new variant to spread. “20A.EU1” is currently one of the most widespread variants of the new corona virus in Europe, as the University of Basel announced today.
At present, there are hundreds of variants that differ from each other by small mutations in the genetic material. In Switzerland, between 30 and 40 percent of the virus genome sequences studied belong to the new variant. The analyses of the researchers of the University of Basel, the ETH Zurich in Basel and the consortium “SeqCOVID-Spain” suggested that the new variant with the name “20A.EU1” appeared for the first time in Spain in summer.
The earliest evidence of the new genome variant is related to a superspreader event among agricultural workers in northeastern Spain. It then spread rapidly throughout the country and eventually reached other European countries, Hong Kong and New Zealand. The researchers suspect that the easing of travel restrictions and social distancing measures in the summer facilitated the spread.
No evidence of greater infectivity
Although the spread of the new virus variant runs parallel to the rising number of cases this autumn, the new variant is not necessarily the cause of the increase, the researchers say.
“It is important to note that there is currently no evidence that the spread of the new variant is due to a mutation that increases transmission or affects the course of the disease,” said epidemiologist Emma Hodcroft of the University of Basel, first author of the study, which has not yet been reviewed by other experts.
In fact, in some countries with a significant increase in Covid-19 cases, other variants dominated, said Richard Neher, also from the University of Basel. The authors of the study are currently working with virology laboratories to investigate possible effects of the mutation. They also hope to gain access to data soon to assess the clinical effects of the variant.
hp, with reports from ORF.at/agencies. Picture: stockilyapp.com
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