A new variant of coronavirus, very different from the others, was discovered in France in October, after 18 students and six adults fell ill with COVID in a school in Bannalec, a small town in the Brittany region of western France. The variant was named B.1.X or B.1.640.

The first contaminations were detected on October 15. At first, two of the school’s 12 classrooms were closed, then two more, then three.

However, the health authorities established quite late that this is a new variant of coronavirus, very different from those previously observed. “This delay was a mistake,” a health official was quoted as saying by Le Télégramme, the French publication that made the revelation.

According to Le Télégramme, a person living in Nantes who traveled to Africa was the one who transmitted the virus to a family in Bannalec at a party. The children then spread the virus throughout the school.

However, the health authorities in the Brittany region give assurances that the situation is now under control. “All cases diagnosed have identified transmission chains, which means we do not suspect traffic through unidentified intermediaries,” said the Brittany Regional Health Agency, which said the latest case was dated October 26, but the situation is still closely monitored. , writes 20minutes.fr.

Unprecedented mutations in Spike protein

However, the case is being debated by the Israeli press, where a professor from Bar-Ilan University, originally from France, explained that the new variant has unprecedented mutations, which raises concerns. Moreover, according to the Jerusalem Post, several cases of infection with the new coronavirus variant have already been identified in other European countries – the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Scotland and Italy, where the Delta variant continues to be dominant.

The Israeli publication wonders if there is cause for panic and asked the opinion of Professor Cyrille Cohen of Bar-Ilan University, originally from France and who has frequent discussions with French health officials. He explained that variant B.1.640 has some unprecedented mutations. One in particular drew attention: Spike protein, which is what allows the virus to “cling” to the human cell and begin the infection process, has some missing sequences, and the question is whether this will make the virus more infectious or make it less effective.

Doctors’ warning: Lack of vaccination leads to new variants

On the other hand, suspicions that the variant came from Africa are a scenario that, according to Cohen, health experts fear and that emphasize the need for a fair distribution of vaccines.

“This variant shows that if you leave a part of the world’s population without access to vaccines, then the virus will continue to multiply, which will lead to more variants,” Cohen said.

According to a report, at the end of October, only 6% of the population of African states were vaccinated against COVID. In addition, even if large quantities of vaccines were delivered, African countries would have difficulty distributing them, mainly for logistical reasons.

“I do not want to scare people. There are only a few cases of B.1.640 now and it may well be that in a month we will all forget about this variant. But it is an example of what could happen if there is no access to vaccines for everyone. “, the teacher pointed out.

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