A woman wearing a mask and other protective clothing

A New Coronavirus Variant Appears In Europe: 'It Is Unique'

It has been discovered in Finland, although its origin is under investigation

A woman wearing a mask and other protective clothing
This Finnish coronavirus strain is unique | iSTOCK

The evolution of coronavirus at the global level is a race between the structural change of the pathogen and the technological advances developed by the international health community. Along the way, the disease is changing genetically, a fact that challenges attempts to prevent its spread. The latest COVID variant has emerged in Finland. 

Fin-796H - as this strain has been named - shares similarities with two others that have been discovered to date, the South African and the British Kent strain, in a structure that has so far been classified as unique. Its appearance is particularly noteworthy, since only a single case has been reported, and it is considered very rare for it to have appeared in the Nordic country due to the low incidence of the virus. 

Finland has had only 51,000 infected people and 700 deaths during the entire pandemic, far from the 109 million infected people and 2.4 million deaths that the pandemic has caused worldwide. For this reason, experts around the world believe that it could come from somewhere else since the chances of it appearing in the Scandinavian country are very low.

How was it discovered?

Researchers at Vita Laboratories, a company based in the Finnish capital, point out that the appearance of the variant was discovered in a patient a week ago. "Details on the efficacy and potential resistance of this variant to vaccines are not yet known," the company said.

For the moment, however, initial indications are that it is no more infectious or immune resistant than those discovered to date. Ikka Julkunen, professor of virology at the Turku University, commented on the initial findings: "I would not worry too much yet because we do not have clear information that this new strain is transmitted more easily or that it affects the immune protection generated by having already had the virus or having received the vaccine", commented the expert to the Finnish media 'Yle'.

Another participant in the study, Petri Auvinen, refers to the situation in which new strains continue to appear. In his words, it is a "matter of time", since the virus itself tends to mutate, to change its structure to adapt to new forms of life and not to disappear. 

The one issue that has been clarified is that it bears no resemblance to any other revealed to date. It is a new variant "not genetically similar to any other known", so it is too early to draw conclusions. 

Other emerging strains and their risk

The new COVID variants are the greatest challenge facing the international community. In fact, a few days ago the focus was put on the first case of recombination of the molecular structure of the virus

A process that occurs when an enzyme that replicates its genome escapes from the RNA strand to which it replicates, and in its reproduction changes its shape. From this new host cell result genomes of the two virus variables that are combined, and the enzymes jump from one to the other creating a hybrid.

In addition, the union of several strains can result in a third, more dangerous one, as in the case of the British strain, which at first was only described as having the capacity to spread, and which has also been reported to be more lethal. 

What is clear is that as the race progresses, more and more is known about the virus, but we are also suffering the consequences of its global expansion. A scenario that makes us move forward with caution. The only way out of it is to respect the preventive measures to return to normality.

[This is a translation of the original article "Aparece en Europa una nueva variante de coronavirus: 'Es única'" published in espanadiario.net]