The new ‘Botswana’ version is the most mutated version of Covid

The Daily Mail reported that British experts have sounded the alarm over a new Covid variant that has emerged in ‘Botswana’, the most mutated version of the virus yet. Only 10 cases of the strain have been detected, which may eventually be named ‘NU’.

But it has already been observed in three countries, suggesting that the version is more widespread. The report said it carries 32 mutations, many of which suggest it is highly transmissible and vaccine-resistant, and that its spike protein has more mutations than any other variant.

Professor Fran├žois Balloux, a geneticist at University College London, said it most likely emerged in a long-lasting infection in an immunocompromised patient, possibly with someone without a diagnosis, the report said.

Changes in the spike make it more difficult for existing jabs to fight, as they train the immune system to recognize the older version of this part of the virus. The report said that Dr Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College who first observed its spread, described the combination of mutations as “terrible”. He warned that B.1.1.1.529, its scientific name, has the potential to be ‘worse than almost anything’ – including the world-leading delta strain.

However, scientists told MailOnline that its unprecedented number of mutations could work against it and make it ‘unstable’, preventing it from becoming widespread. He said there was “no need to be overly concerned” as there were no signs yet that it was spreading rapidly.

So far three infections have been detected in Botswana and six in South Africa – where surveillance of various kinds is more robust. The report said that a case has also been seen in a 36-year-old man in Hong Kong who recently returned from the continent. There is no case in the UK. But the UK Health Security Agency, which took over from Public Health England, said it was monitoring the situation closely.

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