Emergence of Covid-19 variant in Pasai Cluster may be more infectious, says professor

Graphic depicting the Covid-19 virus. Image credit: Pixabay, Creative Commons License

KUCHING, April 30: The Covid-19 variant first detected in the Pasai Cluster shares a similar mutagenic trait with the United Kingdom variant which is associated with increased transmissibility.

The Institute of Health & Community Medicine (IHCM) in Universiti Malaysia Sarawak has been tracking the SARS-COV-2 variants circulating in Sarawak.

To date, the IHCM laboratory has completed genomic sequencing of over 484 samples and the genomic sequence data is shared in the GISAID global SARS-COV-2 sequence database.

“We recently reported that our variant surveillance study has identified the B.1.470 and B.1.524 lineages as the circulating variants in the third wave (Sept – Nov, 2020) and lineages B.1.470, B.1.524 and B.1.466.2 as the circulating variants in the fourth wave (December 2020 onwards) in Sarawak.

“Notably, the B.1.466.2 variant is related to the ‘Pasai’ cluster in Sarawak and this variant shares the P681R mutation with the UK B.1.1.7 variant that is associated with increased transmissibility,” said Prof David Perera in a statement today.

Prof Perera is a member of the Sarawak Covid-19 Vaccine Advisory Group. He is also the Director of Institute of Health and Community Medicine of University Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas).

“Today, we would like to report the detection of a ‘Variant of Interest (VOI), the B. or P.3 variant.

“This variant was first reported in the Philippines in March this year and was recently identified in import cases in the UK.

“This P.3 variant is characterized by 2 key mutations; the E484K mutation shared with the B.1.351 variant (South African variant) and the N501Y mutation shared with the B.1.1.7 variant (UK variant).

“These mutations have been associated with immune-escape from both vaccine-induced and natural infection protection, and greater transmissibility,” said Prof Perera.

He said the uncontrolled intense transmission of the virus will lead to the emergence of more virus variants that may have an important impact on the vaccine efficacy rate and possibly severity of the disease.

“The continuous evolving of new SARS-COV-2 variants strongly emphasizes the need for the public to continue adhering to the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and guidelines, particularly mask-wearing, hand hygiene and physical distancing and the need to achieve herd-immunity through the vaccination program.

“These efforts will help slow virus transmission and reduce the chance of future variants evolving in the community,” said Prof Perera. — DayakDaily