The new Nigerian and Rio de Janeiro variants of the coronavirus detected in Spain

  • Both strains carry the ‘Erik’ mutation believed to provide resistance to vaccines

  • The British, more contagious and probably more lethal, already represents 47% of cases in Catalonia, according to the Ministry of Health

Two new potentially dangerous variants recently described by scientists have already been detected in Spain. It’s about the Nigerian strain and that of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), which could reduce the effectiveness of vaccines. Both are added to the cases found of the South African, Brazilian and British strains, the latter the most worrying because it already represents between 25% and 30% of cases in Spain, as explained by Fernando Simón in his Monday press conference .

The two new “variants of interest”, as they are technically called, are so because scientists have detected in them the same mutation that appeared in the South African strain that allows it to escape antibodies, both those generated by infection and by vaccines. This is the E484K, which geneticists have colloquially referred to as Erik.

The variant of Rio de Janeiro (P2) it is the most widespread. According to him ‘Report on the epidemiological situation of variant B.1.1.7 of SARS-CoV-2 and other variants of interest’, Published this Monday by the Ministry of Health, nine cases have been found in the Canary Islands whose epidemiological link is not clear, so it could be circulating without being detected until now. Two other cases have been found in Madrid, linked to travelers from Brazil.

The Nigerian (B1515) it has only been detected in a sample of an infected person taken last January, when its existence had not yet been described.

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Another two more

In addition to these two variants, Health has put under the radar two others also recently described by scientists. It’s about the californian and a version of the British one that has the Erik mutation. The latter presents, a priori, the worst combination. To the higher transmissibility and probably lethality of the UK strain. resistance to vaccines would be added.

Neither has been detected in Spain. The discovery of 23 cases of the new version of the British one triggered the alert in England but outside there only one case has been found in the Netherlands.

Simón has stressed that there are no laboratory tests that yet demonstrate the resistance of these four strains to vaccines. “They are being studied but it has not been possible to verify,” he added.

Of the South African (B1351), also more transmissible, six cases have been found in Spain so far and of the Brazilian (P1), two.

Slower expansion

The most imminent threat remains the progressive expansion of the British strain (B117). The government’s forecast was for it to become dominant in late February or early March but it appears to be delayed for a few more days, probably due to the restrictions currently in place, according to the government’s technical spokesperson on the pandemic.

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Now it is among the aforementioned 25% or 30% but in some communities it is being or is already dominant, around 50%. Catalonia is one of them. As the Secretary of Public Health, Josep Maria Argimon said, this week or the next this circumstance will occur. According to the Health report, it currently has a prevalence of 47%. Behind would be Cantabria (45%), Andalusia (36%) and Madrid (28%). In the document, Galicia is at the fore (53%), but with data from two weeks ago, which was also denied by the Galician Health service, which estimated it at 10%.

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While waiting to solve the unknown of how the new variants will impact the evolution of the pandemic, it continues its downward trend. This Monday the incidence has fallen to 252 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, about to leave behind the extreme risk threshold that the Health traffic light places at 250 cases.

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