A new coronavirus variant is spreading across Europe, scientists warn


A coronavirus strain that emerged in Spain in June has spread across Europe and now makes up a large proportion of infections in several countries, researchers said, highlighting the role of travel in the pandemic and the need to track mutations.

The variant, which has not been found to be inherently more dangerous, was first identified among farm workers in the eastern Spanish regions of Aragon and Catalonia.

Over the last two months, it has accounted for close to 90% of new infections in Spain, according to the research paper, authored by seven researchers with backing by Swiss and Spanish public-sector science institutions.

It was posted on a so-called preprint server and is yet to be peer reviewed for publication in a scientific journal.

The strain has crossed European borders and accounted for 40-70% of new infections in Switzerland, Ireland and the United Kingdom in September, they found.



The variant was first identified in the eastern Spanish regions of Aragon and Catalonia

The scientists said the strain’s characteristic mutation did not give it any apparent edge and its success may be down to the people who caught it first being particularly mobile and sociable.

But in some places outside Spain the variant’s journey developed a dynamic of its own, indicating it may have a transmission advantage.

“Its frequency in the UK has continued to increase even after quarantine-free travel was discontinued and the main summer travel period ended. Thus this variant might transmit faster than competing variants,” the researchers wrote.



Coronavirus molecules

Efforts to sequence viral genomes differ widely across Europe, limiting their research, they said.

“The rapid rise of these variants in Europe highlights the importance of genomic surveillance of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic…it is imperative to understand whether novel variants impact the severity of the disease.”

The World Health Organisation said in July that there was no evidence mutations of the virus had led to more severe disease.


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It formed a working group to better understand how mutations behave.

All viruses make only imperfect copies of themselves when they infect a host but the tendency for this random drift varies between classes of viruses.

Coronaviruses, which were also behind the 2002-2004 SARS outbreak, are known to be more stable than, for instance, the seasonal flu, which requires a new vaccine every year.





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Coronavirus: Variant mutation lets it copy itself more efficiently


Senior health adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci has warned that a new mutation of coronavirus could spread easily across America. 

It comes as infections soar across eight states, with more than 55,000 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday and 671 deaths, bringing the confirmed total to 2.74 million cases and 128,742 deaths. 

A small change to a variant of the novel coronavirus has helped it better copy itself but not make it more deadly, a new study suggests.

Researchers found there were two strains of the virus circulating when it reached the US: the original D614 and a mutation, G614. 

This mutation is not a deadlier version of the coronavirus but it does help the virus copy itself better, which results in a higher viral load in patients. 

Senior health adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci (pictured) has warned that a new mutation of coronavirus could spread easily across America. This mutation is not a deadlier version of the coronavirus but it does help the virus copy itself better, which results in a higher viral load in patients

Researchers found the most dominant strain of the virus by mid-March was a mutation of the original variant called G614 (right, in blue), not the original virus D614 (left, in green)

Researchers found the most dominant strain of the virus by mid-March was a mutation of the original variant called G614 (right, in blue), not the original virus D614 (left, in green)

Dr Erica Ollmann Saphire, a professor of at the La Jolla Institute of Immunology in California, says viruses often mutate to ‘escape’ antibodies created by our immune systems.

This phenomenon of viruses making enough changes to ‘drift’ away from the original virus is known as antigenic drift.

It’s one reason why new flu shots are needed every fall, because the dominant strain is often so different from the one the year before.  

Health experts say coronavirus mutates at a slower rate than several other respiratory viruses, particularly the the flu. 

The lab-based research, published in the journal Cell, suggests this current mutation is more transmissible between people in the real world compared to the previous iteration, but this hasn’t yet been proven. 

‘I think the data is showing that there is a single mutation that actually makes the virus be able to replicate better, and maybe have high viral loads,’ Anthony Fauci, the United States’s top infectious disease specialist, who wasn’t involved in the research, commented to Journal of the American Medical Association.

‘We don’t have a connection to whether an individual does worse with this or not. It just seems that the virus replicates better and may be more transmissible, but this is still at the stage of trying to confirm that,’ he added. 

‘But some very good viral phylogeneticists are working on that right now, and it does look like a particular mutation may make the virus more transmissible.’ 

For the study, the team tracked the spread of both the G and D viruses. 

The G strain is not a deadlier version, but it allows the virus to copy itself more easily and create higher viral loads in patients. Pictured: Paula Johnson, a nurse, administers a deep suction tube into the lungs of a coronavirus patient, in the ICU of Roseland Community Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, April 22

The G strain is not a deadlier version, but it allows the virus to copy itself more easily and create higher viral loads in patients. Pictured: Paula Johnson, a nurse, administers a deep suction tube into the lungs of a coronavirus patient, in the ICU of Roseland Community Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, April 22

They found that while both the D virus and the G virus spread widely around the world, the G strain was more dominant by mid-March. 

Next, researchers analyzed at antibody samples from six San Diego residents who had previously been infected with COVID-19.

They wanted to see if which variant would be harder to neutralize.

Results showed the new G virus was just as well neutralized – and sometimes even better – as the original D virus. 

This means the immune system doesn’t need to produce more or better-acting antibodies against the G virus, despite it being better at spreading. 

‘These findings suggest that the newer form of the virus may be even more readily transmitted than the original form,’ said senior author Dr Bette Korber, a fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory.     

‘Whether or not that conclusion is ultimately confirmed, it highlights the value of what were already good ideas: to wear masks and to maintain social distancing.’ 

Saphire says the virus ‘wants’ to be transmissible, which is why many get a mild cases, or have no symptoms at all.

‘A virus that kills its host rapidly doesn’t go as far–think of cases of Ebola,’ she said.

‘A virus that lets its host go about their business will disseminate better – like with the common cold.’ 



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Lite Foldable Version May Be Cheapest Variant Yet


Most probably know by now that getting a Samsung Galaxy Fold will not come cheap. However,  this has not stopped the company from coming up with cheaper alternatives. As far as foldable devices, there is the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip. Compared to the Samsung Galaxy Fold, a phone priced roughly around the $1,380 mark.

Compared to the Samsung Galaxy Fold, that is already a big slash off the suggested retail price. The SRP for the Samsung Galaxy Fold is at $2,000. But as mentioned in a previous post, Samsung plans to lower the price of the successor, the Samsung Galaxy Fold 2. The price is rumored to be roughly $1,899, a $101 off that some may not get excited about. Also worth noting is that there will be some downgrades. This includes getting a phone with only three cameras instead of the normal four that most phones are coming out with right now.

Aware that only a select few would likely consider buying their expensive Samsung Galaxy foldable, it appears that the South Korean company is trying to take it a notch lower. There are now rumors (via Sam Mobile) flying about a Samsung Galaxy Fold Lite 4G coming out and that it may be priced at $1,099. That is practically 50 percent savings from the Samsung Galaxy Fold in circulation right now.

But again, there will be features missing. The first is obvious, a phone that would run on 4G and not the 5G feature other phones are now toting. Aside from that, other changes likely to happen include the Ultra-Thin Glass (UTG) and possibly a device running on a less-powerful processor. As of this writing, the potential specs of the Samsung Galaxy Fold Lite 4G remain scarce although most are already advised to taper their expectations.

It would be a curious variant to check out, assuming that these rumors are true. Focus remains on the Samsung Galaxy Fold 2 which will reportedly be available in black and brown color themes. With regard to demand, it remains to be seen if sales will pick up. Most are expected to hold off on getting new phones, not to mention expensive ones, prioritizing other needs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.





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