New Covid strain detected in Lithuania was found not only in Anykščiai but also in other cities. It is linked to greater resistance to vaccines, according to lrytas.lt
BNS was informed of this on April 21 by Santaros Clinic’s biobank chief, senior medical biologist Danielius Naumovas.
“Last week, we detected nine cases of the new Covid strain through sequencing. They are from Vilnius, Kaunas, Utena and Marijampolė district. We found it in a number of places,” the scientist who curates sequencing research said.
On April 20, the National Public Health Centre informed that 35 coronavirus cases of the E848K mutation were detected in Anykščiai. It is believed that they are all attributed to a currently unidentified strain in Lithuania.
According to the scientist, the aforementioned strain is akin to those from Brazil and the South African Republic and is notable for its increased resistance to vaccines.
“E848K is a general mutation from the dangerous Brazilian and South African strains. This mutation is believed to be responsible for the strains with it “escaping” the natural or obtained immunity – vaccination,” D. Naumovas said.
According to him, antibodies formed in a human body “are weaker at neutralising the virus with this mutation.” Thus, it is possible that this strain could infect repeatedly, as well as infect despite vaccination.
According to D. Naumovas, all positive coronavirus cases in Lithuania are currently undergoing repeat molecular (PGR) testing in order to find out whether they have the aforementioned E848K mutation.
If it is found, some of the samples are sent for sequencing research.
“If it is found that this mutation is found in a number of positive tests, which are interrelated, not all samples, just a part is sent for testing because, statistically, there is no purpose to studying them all. It is very likely that these are all cases of the same strain. Also, sequencing research is fairly lengthy and expensive,” the scientist explained.
According to D. Naumovas, the strain didn’t have a name until now that it is going to be called B.1.620. It was the head of the Santara Clinics biobank along with colleagues Gytis Dudas and Ingrida Olendraitė who proposed the unique title.
“It probably can’t be called the Lithuanian or Anykščiai strain like commentators want to. Indeed, this strain isn’t all that new because it has also been detected in France, Germany, Belgium and even the USA. The first such case was detected in France this year. However, it cannot be said that it originated there – it is likely to have been brought in,” the biologist said.
According to him, the strain likely originated in Africa. Furthermore, it was fairly rather and so, scientists did not dedicate much attention to it.
“It had surfaced sporadically – one case in a month or half a year. If it’s just one case, this means that it isn’t spreading, doesn’t have special traits, but perhaps it was a very well isolated case,” D. Naumovas mused.
“This strain doesn’t spread as quickly as the British one because it is found sporadically across many countries, but there aren’t many cases of it, perhaps it’s not very virulent. However, it is hard to say for certain,” he added.
Thus far, two strains that are held to be dangerous have been detected in Lithuania: 1,646 cases of the British strain and ten of the South African strain.
Increased case number in Anykščiai region
Based on Wednesday data, a total of 43 cases of the unidentified in Lithuania coronavirus strain were detected in the Anykščiai region according to the National Public Health Centre’s (NVSC) Utena Department director Birutė Sapkauskienė. According to the NVSC representative, the new strain also infected eight individuals who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19.
“Currently, we have 43 definite confirmed cases of this strain in the Anykščiai region,” B. Sapkauskienė told ELTA.
The NVSC representative also stated that the new strain also infected eight individuals who had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, including one who has already fully recovered.
“At the moment, there are seven infected people in one social care institution, but they are not experiencing any symptoms, these are completely asymptomatic cases,” she said.
B. Sapkauskienė noted that during epidemiological studies, it was found that despite one of the individuals infected with the new coronavirus strain was actively interacting with other individuals, they did not infect them with COVID-19.
The NVSC representative also highlighted that cases occur where fully vaccinated individuals are infected with a generic form of the coronavirus.
“After all, it has not been ruled out that vaccinated individuals can be infected. However, they either experience light symptoms or none at all,” she said.
B. Sapkauskienė emphasised that of the 43 individuals infected with the new strain, only a few have been hospitalised.
“Thus, we cannot currently discern any particular differences, there is simply too few cases and too little data,” he stated, emphasising that there is currently no basis for great concern.