Vials with COVID vaccines

New COVID Variant Discovered In Japan That Poses 'Increased Health Risk'

The infected person was a traveler from the Philippines who had no symptoms

New health alert after the Japanese authorities have detected a new variant of coronavirus. According to the Japanese authorities, this new strain has been discovered in a traveler coming from the Philippines, a country where this variant has already been found in several patients.

This new variant is added to those already discovered in recent months which had alerted the authorities in several countries, such as the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil, but this time it seems that the strain presents a greater health risk. Thus, a new wave of contagions could start, which the health authorities and the medical system might not be able to cope with, as some hospitals are still collapsed.

This strain could pose a greater health risk than other recently discovered variants

Moreover, the Japanese Ministry of Health has issued a statement highlighting that this new variant could be more resistant to the immunity generated by the vaccines created. This fact was of greatest concern to health experts, as the vaccination process could be affected if it is discovered that any of the new variants is capable of continuing to infect those who have already been vaccinated.

Similarly, there is also concern that the infected traveler did not show any symptoms, although a test confirmed that he was infected once he arrived at Narita airport.

The authorities of this Japanese region have shared that  this variant had been previously detected in the Philippines. Specifically, more than 30 cases of people infected with this variant have been detected in the country since January.

A study on new variants alerts the scientific community

This variant is not the only one that concerns for possible vaccine immunity. A study was recently published about COVID variants in the UK and South Africa and the results were not encouraging. The study stated that the vaccines currently available to the population and the antibodies to them may be less effective in eliminating these variants.

This study was concluded after testing in companies located in the United Kingdom, where the B.1.1.7 variant (popularly known as the 'British strain') predominates, and in a company in South Africa, where the variant is known as B.1.351. Thus, the results of the study published on March 9 in the journal Nature showed that the vaccine was about 90% effective in the United Kingdom, but only 49.4% effective in South Africa. Therefore, it can be concluded that some of the variants may escape the antibodies created in the human body, either by the vaccine or by having recently overcome the disease.

The study has alarmed the scientific community with its results, which show that "the virus is moving in a direction that makes it escape our current vaccines and therapies directed against the peak protein of the virus". This situation is of concern mainly because the poorest countries are still not receiving the vaccine or are receiving it in very small quantities. This means that SARS-CoV-2 can continue to reproduce and create new variants, which would mean that vaccines would eventually cease to be effective.

The study asserts that "if the rampant spread of the virus continues and more critical mutations accumulate, we may be doomed to continually chase evolving SARS-CoV-2, as we have long done with the influenza virus." Thus, the possible end of the pandemic would be stretched out in time even longer than already planned. 

[This is a translation of the original article "Descubren una nueva variante de Covid en Japón que supone «un mayor riesgo sanitario»" published in]