All about the Nigerian variant

All about the Nigerian variant

"We discovered this Nigerian variant that would be indifferent to vaccinations," said the president of the Lombardy Region, Attilio Fontana (Lega). Here is the information currently known on the Nigerian variant not only in Italy.

The new Nigerian variant which is also beginning to be spoken in Italy is actually another English variant. Variant B.1.525 , in fact, was first identified in the United Kingdom in mid-December 2020. It was subsequently found in Nigeria, Denmark , the United States , Canada and France. There are currently hundreds of cases around the world . The variant B.1.525 is described on PANGO lineages , a global portal that contains the data of all the variants, public and shareable, with dates and geography of the diffusion of the chains.

What are and why variants of a virus are created

Variants of a virus, of any virus, are copies very similar to the original but contain small differences in the viral structure, also called "mutations" which make the viral particle slightly different from the original structure. In the case of Coronavirus, the mutations that make up a variant are all the small differences that deviate the viral particle from the original version , the one isolated in Wuhan. The variants increase as the spread of the virus and the means to counter it increase. In fact, as the quantity of viral copies in circulation increases, the probability of errors in the virus copy, which causes mutations, also increases. Also for this reason it is essential to counter the spread of the virus.

Nigerian variant in Naples

In Italy it was identified for the first time on February 17, 2021, by the Pascale Institute and the Federico II University, in a patient who had returned from Africa for work reasons. “The sequence of the sample that came to us from the Policlinico Federiciano – Nicola Normanno, researcher at the Cancer Institute of Naples told the Fatto Quotidiano – immediately made us suspicious because it did not present similarities with other samples from our region. After a comparison with the group of the Emerging Zoonosis Department of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità, we had the confirmation that it is a variant described so far in about a hundred cases in some European and African countries, but also in the United States. We immediately deposited the sequence in the international GISAID database and notified the health authorities ”.

Differences and similarities with respect to the English, South African and Brazilian variants

The Nigerian variant, like all variants , has several mutations, some specific, others also present in other variants of Covid-19. The specific mutation of the Nigerian variant , renamed Q677H by scientists, is present in the Spike protein, the one used by the latest generation vaccines. Variant B.1.525 also has 3 mutations in common with the English variant , including 501Y, the one responsible for greater virulence, and one, E484K, with the South African variant and Brazilian variant of Covid-19.

Mutation Y501: increases contagiousness

Researchers from the COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) Consortium , a group of public health agencies and academic institutions in the UK set up in April 2020 to collect, sequence and analyze SARS-CoV-2 genomes, studied the structures of the Spike protein mutated and did some elaboration to understand if the change in shape of the Spike protein produced by the mutations ( Y501 ) could make the Spike protein more effective in binding its target. From the simulations it emerged that the Y501 mutation allows the virus to bind to human cells more easily and to remain bonded to them more firmly and therefore to attack them more effectively. From this it is assumed that its greater virulence derives.

E484K mutation: resistance to healing

The Nigerian variant shares the E484K mutation with the Brazilian and South African ones. Similarly, therefore, it may be more difficult to counter with antibody-based therapies . It is highly probable, according to the researchers, that this mutation confers a high resistance to hyperimmune plasma, monoclonal antibodies and vaccines. On vaccine resistance, increased by the E484k mutation, the COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) Consortium has published a study highlighting vaccine resistance to Pfizer BNT162b2 mRNA .

How mRNA vaccines work

The mRNA vaccines ( Moderna and Pfizer ) use messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) molecules that contain instructions for the vaccinated person's cells to synthesize Spike proteins . The proteins produced stimulate the immune system to produce specific antibodies. In this way, those who have been vaccinated are provided with antibodies which, in the event of contagion, block the Spike proteins and prevent their entry into the cells.

The Nigerian variant in Brescia

If the scholars' research is confirmed, the Nigerian variant is likely to be virulent, like the English one, and resistant to therapies, like the South African and Brazilian one. Last March 2 she was isolated in Brescia . "For the first time in Italy we have isolated the virus carrying these mutations which are of concern because they could confer resistance to the anti Covid vaccines available today" said Arnaldo Caruso , president of the Italian Virology Society and director of the Asst Spedali Civili Microbiology Laboratory .

The concern of the President of Lombardia Fontana

The President of Lombardy Attilio Fontana is very worried by the appearance of the new variant in his territory, which has ended up again in the "reinforced orange" area. “I am a little worried and we are. The decision of the ordinance was made on the basis of the report of our indicator committee. He clearly states that there are a series of alarming elements on which urgent action is needed – Fontana told Corriere della Sera today -. And in fact, that now the virus also infects young people who previously seemed exempt. And then we found out about this Nigerian variant that would be indifferent to vaccinations . We have no specific news on this but, as I said, the point is not to get caught off guard. Try to stay ahead of the virus ".

Fabrizio Pregliasco: "The variants prefer the youngest"

The virologist Fabrizio Pregliasco, member of the CTS Lombardia, warns about the spread of the new variants. " The viral load is higher , the duration of contagiousness is 14 days instead of the 10 of the original virus and the higher viral load makes the droplet cloud more pervasive in space – says the professor of the University of Milan on the screens of Agorà on Rai 3. Furthermore, the new variants affect the younger ones . "We see greater contagiousness of the virus and a great prevalence between 13 and 19 years as well as among the youngest, with inapparent infections that facilitate the chain of contagion – adds the academic – The fact that there is greater viral load means that space increases of contagion, even indirect, and this speeds up and makes the moment of contact more effective , so every contact becomes more at risk. Roberto Burioni is more cautious, asking not to terrorize the population with variants: "At the moment there are no data – says the professor of the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Milan – that indicate a greater contagiousness or a greater 'pathogenicity' of this variant. In three preliminary clinical studies, some vaccines appear to be less effective against it ”.

This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Start Magazine at the URL on Fri, 05 Mar 2021 13:23:14 +0000.