While British authorities look into a new mutated coronavirus strain, many unanswered questions remain, according to the World Health Organization.
Mutations don’t necessarily imply something for the better or worse; it simply means a change. An organism, in this case an antigen, mutates to adapt for a better chance at survival or it takes on faulty traits which can lead to its demise.
“We are aware of this genetic variant reported in about 1,000 individuals in England,” Mike Ryan, chief of WHO’s emergency program, told a news briefing Monday. “Authorities in the UK are looking at its significance. We have seen many variants, this virus evolves and changes over time.”
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It remains unclear whether the variant makes the virus more serious, transmissible, or interferes with diagnostics or vaccine effectiveness, Ryan said.
News of the virus variant comes amid new coronavirus restrictions set to impact London and other parts of Britain on Wednesday morning as the U.K.’s case count continues to rise. The toughest Tier 3 restrictions prohibit socializing indoors, and bars, pubs and restaurants must close except for takeout. People are told to minimize traveling within or to the area, and Health Secretary Matt Hancock said people shouldn’t take trips into central London to do Christmas shopping.
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Professor Nick Loman from the COVID-19 Genomics U.K. Consortium told the BBC that the variant has several surprising mutations.
“It has a surprisingly large number of mutations, more than we would expect, and a few look interesting,” Loman said, per the outlet — which also reported the mutation is most prevalent in areas with the highest burden of cases.
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The professor said there are “two notable sets of mutation,” both situated in the spike protein, which the virus uses to bind to healthy cells.
Another professor cautioned it’s too early to make any conclusions.
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“We know there’s a variant, we know nothing about what that means biologically,” Alan McNally, professor at the University of Birmingham, told the BBC. “It is far too early to make any inference on how important this may or may not be.”
“We have no information to suggest that any of that is the case,” Ryan continued, speaking to interference with diagnostics or vaccine efficacy. “That is why each and every time we see a significant variant, we have to take the time to assess its significance.”
Fox News’ Greg Norman and the Associated Press contributed to this report.