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New ‘Botswana’ variant detected in South Africa, Hong Kong; experts say ‘it is highly transmissible, vaccine-resistant’

New Delhi: A new ‘Botswana’ variant of COVID-19 has been detected that is the most mutated version of the virus yet, according to experts.

The new strain B.1.1.529, its scientific name, is believed to have emerged in ‘Botswana’ and could eventually be named ‘Nu’.

So far, 10 cases of the strain have been reported across three countries – Botswana, South Africa and Hong Kong.

While three infections have been in Botswana to date, six cases were detected in South Africa — where variant surveillance is more robust.

One case has also been spotted in a 36-year-old man in Hong Kong who recently returned from South Africa, as per reports. The man had tested negative before visiting South Africa, where he stayed from October 22 to November 11. He tested positive on 13 November while in quarantine.

The variant carries 32 mutations, many of which suggest it is highly transmissible and vaccine-resistant, and has more alterations to its spike protein than any other variant, Daily Mail reported.

Professor Francois Balloux, a geneticist at University College London, said it likely emerged in a lingering infection in an immunocompromised patient, possibly someone with undiagnosed AIDS, the report said.

Dr Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College who first picked up on its spread, described the variant’s combination of mutations as ‘horrific’.

He warned that B.1.1.529 had the potential to be ‘worse than nearly anything else about’ — including the world-dominant Delta strain.

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