This is frightening on a lovely Thanksgiving day, and I did debate writing this.  Nevertheless I decided that it was important to alert friends and family of the potential increased risk of this variant being able to escape established immunity.  Reading the quotes, I can tell there is a particular emphasis on the very public health measures countries or regions of the countries ignoring the science are blowing off.

The variant, called B.1.1.529, has 32 mutations in the part of the virus that attaches to human cells, called the spike protein — the target for existing vaccines and antibody treatments. A higher number of mutations in the spike protein may change its shape and means there is a greater risk that those vaccines and treatments won’t be effective against it.

Now we have heard this before, and in the past with Delta it has been true.  This is not to say, however that the variant will do that, but the concern is high.


Dr. Tom Peacock, virologist at Imperial College London who posted about the variant on Github Tuesday, said that the high numbers of mutations could be of “real concern” and there were combinations of mutations that he hadn’t seen before in a single variant of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Also, my thanks to aoeu for kindly providing us with a more detailed link…

Prof Francois Balloux, Professor of Computational Systems Biology and Director, UCL Genetics Institute, UCL, said:

“B.1.1529 is a new lineage that has been found in Botswana that carries an unusual constellation of mutations.  Given the large number of mutations it has accumulated apparently in a single burst, it likely evolved during a chronic infection of an immunocompromised person, possibly in an untreated HIV/AIDS patient.

Keep in mind I am writing this hoping for Mark Sumner, far more well versed in the biology, to take the reigns and provide much more comprehensive reporting on this as it becomes available.  And I thank him for that.  We all should.


This tweet is of a video explaining what is known.  Finally there is hope that while the virus may have mutations that make it more easily escape immunity, there are signs that it may be less transmissible, which is keeping in line with other RNA viruses of the past.

Greg Dore, an infectious disease physician at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney, Australia, tweeted on Wednesday night that B.1.1.529 “has mutations associated [with] reduced vaccine effectiveness” but added it may also be that case that the variant is not particularly transmissible.

Will update as needed.  Happy Thanksgiving, and please don’t drop your guard!

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