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A team of South African scientists announced Thursday, November 25 the discovery of a new variant of Covid-19. The variant designated by the Greek letter “Mu” is considered “worrying” because of its many mutations.

The B1.1.529 variant, or Mu, was detected in South Africa 2 days ago. Its main characteristic is the high number of mutations it carries. But Professor Tulio de Oliveira, one of the leaders of the research, is still unaware of the impact they can have. Some mutations are already known, and he is concerned that this variant may turn out, ” more contagious and better equipped to overcome the immune defenses of the human body “, He declared on the South African news site, the Daily Maverick.

The new variant has at least 32 mutations on the spike protein, the part that attaches to the cells of our body, that is to say 30 more than the Delta variant, which is very contagious. But for now, this Mu variant seems less contagious, indeed only a few dozen cases have been discovered. in South Africa, in Botswana, 1 in Hong Kong and 1 in Israel, each time on travelers from the south of the African continent.

Since the start of the epidemic, new variants have appeared and the fear is always that they reduce the effectiveness of vaccines, yet the Mu variant seems radically different from the Wuhan strain, which served as the basis for the design of the vaccines. .

Already travel restrictions

France decided this Friday to suspend the arrivals of flights from southern Africa in order to avoid the importation into its territory of this new variant. The UK and Germany and the Netherlands have also decided to suspend flights from South Africa and its neighboring countries. Decisions deemed “hasty” by the South African government, and which constitute a hard blow for tourism, just before the austral summer.

Read also : UK to ban travelers from six African countries over new variant

It will be necessary ” Several weeks To understand the level of transmissibility and virulence of the new variant said a spokesperson for the WHO as experts met on November 26. The UN agency also advises against travel restriction measures.

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