Kent variant ‘could’ take over globe warns expert
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Professor Greg Towers spoke with LBC’s Tom Swarbrick about COVID-19 and how the newly discovered variants work and adapt to humans. Professor Towers agreed with Executive Director of the COVID-19 Consortium Professor Sharon Peacock that the Kent variant could “sweep the world” as its genetic makeup continues to evolve. Prof Towers also answered questions about why the mutation happened in Kent, how vaccines will now adapt and what specifically has changed to the virus.
LBC presenter Tom Swarbrick asked Prog Towers whether he agreed with Prof Peacock’s assessment that the Kent variant could “sweep the world”.
The UCL academic said: “Absolutely, it could, there are other variants which appear to also be more transmissible, the South African variant for example, and more variants will emerge.
Prof Towers added that pharmaceutical companies would be prepared to tackle the new variants by editing their vaccines.
Prof Peacock warned that the “Kent” variant has the potential to “sweep the world” as the strain has been found in over 50 countries.
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She also warned that her team would spend the next ten years sequencing COVID-19 and its mutations.
Mr Swarbrick then asked Prof Towers: “Why this particular variant and why is it causing so much trouble which means it could spread across the globe?”
The UCL academic replied: “Well, this a new virus, COVID-19, and it is slowly adapting more to humans so it is becoming more transmissible.
“This particular variant, which has evolved in the UK seems to be particularly good at transmitting and therefore it is getting an advantage over (microorganisms).”
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Mr Swarbrick then asked specifically what was that has changed in the Kent variant which made it more infectious.
Prof Towers said scientists were researching it and were starting to find the spike proteins of the virus has changed which allows it to enter human cells easier.
The professor also explained that viruses would always be evolving to become more deadlier or more infectious and would not evolve to be safer.
Viruses, however, do reach a peak in evolving which Professor Towers says that COVID-19 has not reached yet.
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Mr Swarbrick was also curious as to why the virus evolved specifically in Kent, with Prof Towers explaining it was completely by chance and because the UK has sequenced much of COVID-19, it is likely for us to find more variants before other countries.
It comes as the South Africa variant also continues to spread across the world as vaccine efficacy falls against it.
The UK also recently added a “Bristol” variant to its “cause for concern” list as around 50 cases were found to have an E484K spike protein mutation.
The UK vaccination programme creeps closer to its 15 million inoculation target with over 13.5 million people vaccinated so far.
Weekly vaccinations average around 2-3 million as the Government is expected to hit its target by next week.
Wales confirmed it has offered a vaccine to the top four priority groups, made up of over 70s, care home and health workers and clinically vulnerable people.
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