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Coronavirus: WHO holds special meeting on worrying new COVID-19 variant

GENEVA – World Health Organization advisers will hold a special session on Friday to provide information on a worrying new variant of the coronavirus that has emerged in South Africa, despite an expert Leading says its impact on the COVID-19 vaccine may not be known for several weeks.

The technical advisory group on the evolution of COVID-19 met almost to discuss the so-called B.1.1.529 variant that has sent stock markets reeling and prompted the European Union to recommend a pause in trades. flight to southern Africa.

The team can decide whether it’s a “variant of interest” – the most worrisome, like the well-known delta variant – or a “variant of interest” and whether a Greek letter should be used to distinguish it. type it or not.

“We don’t know much about this yet. What we do know is that this variant has a large number of mutations and the concern is that when you have too many mutations, it can affect how the virus behaves. action,” Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead on COVID-19, said in a social media chat on Thursday.

To date, there are less than 100 full genome sequences of this variant.

“It will take several weeks for us to understand the impact of this variant on any potential vaccine,” Van Kerkhove said.

Contacted by phone, the chairman of the advisory group, Dr Anurag Agrawal, Director of the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology in New Delhi, said it was too early to comment on this variant. He says more data is needed before he can add to the already existing information.

“This is one of those things worth watching,” says Van Kerkhove. “We have people working on this.”

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Aniruddha Ghosal contributed to this report from New Delhi.

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