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UK coronavirus variant on course ‘to sweep the world,’ leading scientist says

LONDON — A variant of the coronavirus that first emerged in the U.K., and has since been identified in over 80 countries, could become the dominant form of the virus worldwide, according to the head of the U.K.’s genetic surveillance program. “The new variant has swept the country and it’s going to sweep the world, in all probability,” Professor Sharon Peacock, director of the Covid-19 Genomics UK Consortium, said. “In the future, I think the key is going to be if something (a variant) is particularly problematic with the vaccines,” she told the BBC’s Newcast podcast. The group that Peacock heads up was created in April 2020 and brings together highly-respected experts and institutes to collect, sequence and analyze genomes of the virus, as part of the U.K.’s pandemic response. To date, it has tracked the genetic history of more than 250,000 samples of the virus. The consortium first detected the more infectious mutation of the virus, dubbed the “British variant” and formally known as “B1.1.7,” in Kent in southeast England in September 2020 through retrospective analysis of virus samples.

Viruses mutate all the time, but experts become concerned when a virus mutates to become more transmissible, as in this case, or more deadly. The higher infection rates associated with the variant identified in the U.K. are likely to lead to more hospitalizations and, sadly, more deaths. As a result, containing it has become a priority. The variant spread quickly throughout the southeast of England and London, and has now become the dominant strain in the U.K. It has also been detected in more than 80 countries, according to the World Health Organization’s latest count, sending health authorities scrambling to isolate cases, although it’s believed that this more virulent strain is already widely in circulation. Read from source….