Information on new SARS-CoV-2 virus variants from Great Britain and South Africa
In December 2020, British authorities reported a new variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus (B.1.1.7) that has been spreading in the UK since September 2020. The new variant is now widespread in all parts of the country and makes up a growing proportion of the SARS-CoV-2 viruses characterized in the United Kingdom. According to initial studies from the United Kingdom and according to the ECDC (Rapid Risk Assessment), variant B.1.1.7 is even easier to transfer from person to person than variants that have been circulating up to now.
Representatives of this line have already been identified in various countries in continental Europe and around the world. In Germany, too, the RKI has been notified of the occurrence of individual infections with the British variant. It is expected that further cases are known in this country and that the new variant will cause outbreaks.
Initial studies indicate that this variant is even easier to transfer and has an increased number of reproductions. There is also evidence that infection with the new variant is associated with a higher viral load. So far, however, there is no evidence of more severe disease progression or reduced effectiveness of the vaccines in connection with this new variant, with limited data. The situation will continue to be monitored. Further research results from the United Kingdom are expected in the next few weeks better to assess the significance of the new variant for other countries.
South Africa Coronavirus Variant
In addition, a new virus variant from South Africa was reported in December 2020 (B.1.351), which, according to initial studies, is also associated with higher transferability. This variant has been found sporadically in Europe, including Great Britain, Sweden, France, and Finland. The first cases have also been detected in Germany. It is expected that more cases and also outbreaks will occur. WHO provides an overview of these and other SARS-CoV-2 variants.
Circulating SARS-CoV-2 viruses are also increasingly being investigated using molecular biology in Germany. The contact person for sequencing is the consulting laboratory for coronaviruses at the Berlin Charité. An overview of current sequences provides, among other things, the website of the Konsiliarlabors: https://civnb.info/sequences/.
In the "Integrated Molecular Surveillance" project, the RKI observes and analyzes circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants in Germany. Readers from Germany can find molecular biological details of the variants detected for the first time in Great Britain and South Africa under SARS-CoV-2: Basic virological data and virus variants.
The dynamic of the spread of both variants (B.1.1.7 and B.1.351) in some countries is worrying. It is still unclear how these new variants will affect Germany's situation, but there is a possibility that the situation will worsen further. Therefore, it is all the more important to consistently adhere to the known AHA + L rules to generally prevent the transmission of SARS-CoV-2, curb the spread of the new, even more easily transferable variant and counteract the overuse of hospitals and health authorities.