A new coronavirus variant has been uncovered in the Brittany region of France, it has been announced by authorities. While this isn’t particularly unusual, with more than 3 major mutations currently being spread around the world, this French discovery is different from the others.
Some variants have been shown to be more easily spread, and others more deadly, but this new variant, instead, evades detection. The standard polymerase chain reaction test, or PCR test, has been the main method of testing if someone has been infected as part of the pandemic. This latest discovery means that far more people with symptoms may spread the disease because they don’t believe they have really been infected.
This variant is being investigated after genomic sequencing discovered the mutation. It has been found among 79 people with coronavirus in the town of Lannion near the north coast of the French department of the Côtes d’Armor.
This was discovered on March 13, and since then, scientists have been working to uncover the other traits of the strain. So far, this mutation doesn’t appear to be more deadly, more easily transmissible, or cause additional complications over other strains. Perhaps more concerning is the lack of ability to test for this new variant through the normal testing process.
Of the 79 people with coronavirus, 8 of them had this new strain. They had initially tested negative using the gold standard of testing, PCR tests, since they had typical symptoms. Their COVID status was confirmed using blood and tissue samples from their respiratory system. All of these 8 infected patients have since gone on to die, however.
Despite this alarming sounding outcome, it isn’t thought to be more deadly though further research could change this assessment. This comes at a time of increased cases in France and many other parts of Europe. It is very probable that this variant is at least part of the cause of the increased rates of infection.
Every time a new variant appears in the population, there are many possible outcomes. Perhaps the strain will be more dangerous, or more easily transmissible, but it could also become less serious, reducing the symptoms.
With this strain escaping detection, it will naturally increase the spread of the coronavirus. This is the only variant that has been found to not show up in the PCR tests. Other variants, like B.1.1.7 which was first detected in the UK, have been found to be both, more easily transferred to others, and somewhat more deadly as well.
If there are more variants that aren’t able to be detected through the standard testing methods, many of these strains will be more deadly, causing more deaths. If they are also avoiding the protection offered by vaccines, this could create a far more serious situation.
Just when there was appearing to be a light at the end of the tunnel in the pandemic, this new strain could prove disastrous. This could already be more widespread than realized, and there could also be more deadly versions out there discovered.