Discovery of a new coronavirus variant
This new variant, which is called 'B.1.214' and is not a Belgian strain, was discovered by a laboratory at the University of Liège. It still represents only a small percentage of infections, and is being closely monitored by researchers from ULiège and KU Leuven.
It was a researcher working on the national genomic surveillance programme for the virus, launched at the end of last December by the Belgian authorities, who was able to identify this variant. According to Vincent Bours, Head of the Sars-Cov-2 analysis and sequencing laboratory at ULiège, it presents "a mutation almost never seen before".
This is because contrary to the variants known as English, South African or Brazilian, which are distinguished by a change of nucleotides in their Spike (S) protein, in the case of the 'B.1.214' variant, the scientists observed an addition of three amino acids compared to this same reference S protein.
Detectable by PCR tests, it is not currently classified as a Variant Of Concern (VOC). There is also no indication at this stage that this new variant, which is believed to originate in sub-Saharan Africa, is more lethal or contagious, even though it already accounts for 4% of new infections. Experts are also optimistic about the effectiveness of vaccination against this variant, which is present in several countries. In any case, it is being closely monitored by researchers from the universities of Leuven and Liège.
We once again salute the tireless efforts of our scientists in this fight against the pandemic.