This morning I have been talking to some infectious disease experts and epidemiologists about what the new strain of Covid detected in the UK means for Australia, and whether Australians should be concerned about its spread from the quarantine of hotels here.
the strain has been detected in extremely small quantities in Australia.
Victoria’s Deputy Director of Health, Professor Allen Cheng, he told me It is unclear if this variant is actually more infectious, although obviously UK authorities are in a better position to assess the evidence for this.
“It could be that this variant is spreading faster due to a ‘founder effect’; For example, it could simply be the strain that was involved in a super-propagation event or that spread in a part of the country where restrictions are less strict or less enforced. a, ”he said. “Higher viral loads could reflect earlier detection of the disease.”
In the meantime, he said, Australian health authorities were “keeping a close eye on things.” Cheng said it is It is also unclear at this stage if the mutation, known as the N501Y mutation, will have any impact on the efficacy of the vaccine. All the vaccines target the spike protein of the virus, and Cheng said the mutation affects the spike protein’s binding site.
“But more studies are needed to see if it affects the way the immune system recognizes the virus after immunization,” he said. “One thing to keep in mind is whether people who had been previously infected are re-infected with this strain. I have yet to see any reports of this. “
Associate Professor at the Kirby Institute of the University of New South Wales, Dr. Stuart Turville, He said Westmead and Prince of Wales Hospitals in New South Wales had sequenced the northern beach cluster, and that it was a strain of the virus that “looked nothing like the UK variant.”
“The northern beaches have been seen in samples from the United States and Europe, but the frequency is low,” Turville said. “Australia is unique in the pandemic. When the virus violates our quarantine, it is just a seeding event. This was seen in Melbourne. A virus comes out and then spreads. “
When asked how concerned we should be about the efficacy of the vaccine in light of this variant, Turville said: “I think we need to be aware and test whether these changes affect vaccine-induced immune responses.
“Currently, our teams do this by testing whether the antibody response to Sars infection, say in the first wave, is as effective in blocking these emerging variants,” he said. “When vaccines are available in Australia, we will do the same. Unfortunately, we see differences even with small changes in the virus. That being said, we currently don’t know how that would influence reinfection until we see what happens or infection in a vaccinated patient until it happens. The good news is that many of the vaccine technologies can also change the viral flavor to vaccinate against. “
For more on the UK strain, read this:
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