26 Nov 2021 17:21

Too early to say that Covid-19 variant B.1.1.529 more dangerous than previous ones - Gamaleya Center director to Interfax

MOSCOW. Nov 26 (Interfax) - A large number of mutations in the Covid-19 variant B.1.1.529 discovered in southern Africa does not necessarily mean that the virus has become more dangerous to humans, Alexander Gintsburg, head of the Russian Health Ministry's Gamaleya Research Center, told Interfax.

"The number of mutations, as the WHO [World Health Organization] has always written correctly, shows that this variant should be treated with interest, concern, and caution. But it would be wrong to rush to change something in the system that exists. The only thing that should be changed is that everyone should be persuaded to vaccinate, at least with Sputnik V, that's for sure," Gintsburg said.

Variant B.1.1.529 has been detected in South Africa, Botswana, and Israel and in a tourist who arrived in Hong Kong from South Africa.

The new variant has 32 mutations. Some virologists believe that a large number of mutations might be "a serious problem."

Meanwhile, Gintsburg insisted that there is no direct interrelation between the number of mutations and the virus's potential danger.

"Indeed, the number of mutations may dramatically change the virus. But this same number of mutations may make the strain very unstable in air. For instance, make it transmittable only in very humid or, on the contrary, in very dry air and thus make it very unstable under low temperatures in Russia or Europe," Gintsburg said.

Hence, nothing definite can be said about the properties of the new Covid-19 variant at the moment, he said.

"If we wish to know Sputnik V's efficacy, let's wait for this variant to reach the Gamaleya Institute and test it experimentally," he said.

Gintsburg said earlier that the Gamaleya Center would test the Sputnik V vaccine's efficacy against the new Covid-19 variant as soon as it received its sample. In addition, he said, the vaccine could be modified quickly enough, if necessary.