The CCP virus variant first found in southeast England is on course to “sweep the world,” a British expert in microbiology has said.
Professor Sharon Peacock, director of the COVID-19 Genomics UK consortium, said that the B117 strain, commonly referred to as the UK variant or the Kent variant, is not just more transmissible than the original strain but has been reported to be “slightly more lethal” as well, though evidence for its higher lethality is not yet firmly established.
“What’s really affected us at the moment is transmissibility,” she told the BBC’s “Newscast” podcast on Wednesday, as “the number of deaths and illness that it caused simply by being much more transmissible cause numerically more problems for people in this country.”
“The new variant that has swept this country is going to sweep the world in all probability in the future,” she predicted.
The Kent variant of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, first detected in September 2020, has been found to be spreading 30 to 70 percent faster than the original variant, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said last month.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the Kent variant may be associated with a higher level of mortality, but Hancock later said that scientists are not yet certain how much more deadly it is.
Peacock said it is “concerning” that the Kent variant is “beginning to mutate again,” which “could affect the way that we handle the virus in terms of immunity and the effectiveness of vaccines.”
Earlier this week, British health authorities announced that they had identified two more CCP virus variants with the E484K spike protein mutation, which makes them more resistant to antibodies.
One of these two variants, VOC202102/02, which was first found in Bristol and southwest England, derived from the Kent variant.
The E484K mutation is present on a number of variants found around the world, including the South African variant, which has been found to be more resistant to antibodies and reduces the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines.
A new study publicised last week showed that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine offers minimal protection against mild and moderate cases of the South African variant, which contains the E484K spike protein mutation.
The prime minister said on Wednesday that people may have to get used to the idea of annual revaccination against the CCP virus as new variants emerge.
Jack Philips contributed to this report.