'Highly Transmissible' Covid-19 Variant in UK Shows New, Concerning South African Mutation

'Highly Transmissible' Covid-19 Variant in UK Shows New, Concerning South African Mutation

The highly transmissible, possibly deadlier variant of Covid-19 that is making vaccines weak was detected in southern England at the end of last year. The same strain is showing signs of further mutation, UK scientists warned.

Tests conducted on samples of the Kent variant, named after the region in England where it was first detected, show a mutation, called ‘E484K’, already detected in the South Africa and Brazil variants.


There are fears that this mutation could evade the immune system and that the vaccines currently being administered may prove less effective against these further mutating variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

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The findings form part of yet-to-be peer-reviewed results of research at the Cambridge Institute of Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Disease (CITIID), University of Cambridge, in collaboration with the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) COVID-19 BioResource.

He said that the variant is expected to continue to acquire mutations seen in the other variants of concern.

The data, which relates to a small sample of patients, also suggests that a significant proportion of over-80 olds may not be sufficiently protected against infection until they have received their second dose of the vaccine.

The scientists used blood samples from 26 individuals who had received their first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine three weeks previously, to extract serum, which contains antibodies raised in response to the vaccine. The age range of the volunteers was 29 to 89 years.

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The findings come as the UK is conducting urgent door-to-door surge testing in south-east England to try and trace every case of the South African variant of COVID-19, which was detected in two people within the community with no travel history connecting them to South Africa.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said he wanted to “come down hard” on the variant by “finding every case”.

According to Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 tracker, over 106,774 people have died and more than 3.8 million people have contracted the disease in the UK