The First Cases of the UK COVID-19 Variant Reported in France, Spain

John Parkinson

John Parkinson is the senior editor for ContagionLive. Prior to joining MJH Life Sciences in 2020, he has covered a variety of fields and markets including diabetes, oncology, ophthalmology, IT, travel, and local news. You can email him at [email protected]

The new COVID-19 variant, B.1.1.7, continues to make its way around Europe and the world with new cases.

The new COVID-19 variant, B.1.1.7, or otherwise known as VOC 202012/01, that has recently been discovered in the United Kingdom, has now been found in France and Spain. For the former country, a French citizen who lives in London tested positive, and in the latter, 4 people from the same family were discovered to have it according to CNN. One of these family members had traveled from the UK before being diagnosed.

In addition, B.1.1.7, has been found in other European countries such as Denmark, Italy, Sweden, and Iceland and in areas as far away from the UK as Singapore, Australia and Japan.

The discovery of this new variant is having countries adding new restrictions and proof that travelers from the UK have a negative COVID-19 test in order to be allowed entry.

In fact, Japan has gone even further in their restrictions. It was announced earlier today that beginning on Monday, the country will not allow entry to any foreign nationals. This will be in effect until the end of January.

According to investigators, COVID-19 continues to evolve with new mutations, but that the B.1.1.7 variant is believed to have acquired 17 changes. This new variant has 14 non-synonymous (amino acid [AA] altering) mutations, 6 synonymous (non-AA altering), and 3 deletions according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC reports the deletions include:

  • 69/70 deletion: this double deletion has occurred spontaneously many times, and likely leads to a change in the shape of (i.e., a conformational change in) the spike protein.
  • P681H: near the S1/S2 furin cleavage site, a site with high variability in coronaviruses. This mutation has also emerged spontaneously multiple times.
  • ORF8 stop codon (Q27stop): This mutation is not in the spike protein but in a different gene (in open reading frame 8), the function of which is unknown. Similar mutations have occurred in the past. In Singapore, one strain with this type of mutation emerged and disappeared.

This variant is believed to have potentially come from one patient, but have not identified the patient. Investigators have said B.1.1.7 is more contagious than the original virus, but no determination that this can lead to severe cases and higher mortality have been reported.

“At this time, there is no evidence that this variant causes more severe illness or increased risk of death,” the CDC also stated on their website.