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    BA.2.86 shows just how risky slacking off on COVID monitoring is / ArsTechnica · Monday, 21 August - 20:17

Transmission electron micrograph of a SARS-CoV-2 virus particle isolated from a patient sample and cultivated in cell culture.

Enlarge / Transmission electron micrograph of a SARS-CoV-2 virus particle isolated from a patient sample and cultivated in cell culture. (credit: Getty | BSIP )

A remarkably mutated coronavirus variant classified as BA.2.86 seized scientists' attention last week as it popped up in four countries, including the US.

So far, the overall risk posed by the new subvariant is unclear. It's possible it could lead to a new wave of infection; it's also possible (perhaps most likely) it could fizzle out completely. Scientists simply don't have enough information to know. But, what is very clear is that the current precipitous decline in coronavirus variant monitoring is extremely risky.

In a single week, BA.2.86 was detected in four different countries, but there are only six genetic sequences of the variant overall —three from Denmark, and one each from Israel, the UK, and the US (Michigan). The six detections suggest established international distribution and swift spread. It's likely that more cases will be identified. But, with such scant data, little else can be said of the variant's transmission or possible distribution.

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    New mutation spotted in B.1.1.7 variants spells trouble for COVID vaccines / ArsTechnica · Tuesday, 2 February, 2021 - 22:57 · 1 minute

Cartoon representation of coronaviruses.

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As the world races to get vaccines into arms, one of the most concerning coronavirus variants appears to be getting a little more concerning.

Researchers in the UK have detected at least 15 cases of B.1.1.7 variants carrying an additional mutation: E484K—a mutation already seen in other concerning variants , and one that may make current vaccines less effective at preventing infection. The B.1.1.7 variant, first identified in the United Kingdom, is already known to spread more easily among people than earlier strains of the pandemic coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. And according to some preliminary evidence, it may cause more severe disease.

So far, B.1.1.7 variants carrying E484K appear rare. On Monday, Public Health England reported in a technical briefing that it had detected E484K in just 11 B.1.1.7 variants among more than 200,000 viruses examined. For now, it’s unclear if the augmented mutants will take off and become dominant in the population or fizzle out. It’s also not entirely clear what the addition of E484K means for B.1.1.7 in people. Preliminary laboratory experiments suggest the mutation alone and its presence in B.1.1.7 specifically may help the virus evade immune responses. But more studies and clinical data are necessary to understand the full effect of the new addition.

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