Covid-19: More than 200 Irish cases linked to potentially risky variants

Variant cases found but they may struggle to get foothold due to UK B117 dominance

Both the Brazilian and South African variants carry a mutation in the spike protein – the part of the virus that allows it to infect a host – called E484K, which helps bypass immunity from past infection.

Both the Brazilian and South African variants carry a mutation in the spike protein – the part of the virus that allows it to infect a host – called E484K, which helps bypass immunity from past infection.

 

More than 200 Irish Covid-19 cases have been linked to outbreaks involving potentially risky variants of the virus, according to a new report.

So far this year, 41 outbreaks have occurred where subsequent genetic sequencing showed involvement of one of the variants of concern or variants of interest, the report by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre shows.

In 21 of these outbreaks, the South African variant, B1351, was identified. The total number of cases involved was 116, and the outbreaks ranged in size from three to 27.

The number of confirmed B1351 cases in Ireland is smaller, at 55, because sequencing results are not available for all cases associated with an outbreak.

The first variant of concern identified in Ireland was B117, or the UK variant, in mid-December. It spread rapidly and now accounts for 94 per cent of cases sequenced. Between mid-December and April 10th, 6,623 B117 cases were sequenced.

The South African variant was first identified before Christmas and since then 55 cases have been confirmed, according to the HPSC. There are also 24 cases of the P1 variant of concern first identified in Brazil.

Bypassing immunity

Both the Brazilian and South African variants carry a mutation in the spike protein – the part of the virus that allows it to infect a host – called E484K, which helps bypass immunity from past infection. Two of the B117 variant cases were also found to have this additional E484K mutation.

About 1,000 Covid-19 cases a week are sequenced by the National Virus Reference Laboratory in UCD.

The report records small numbers of a variety of variants of interest – 14 cases of P2, first identified in Brazil; 17 B1525 (Nigeria); six B1526 (New York); two B1429 (California); and two A.27 (Mayotte).

In addition, 36 cases of B11318 from the UK and three cases of B1617 from India have been identified.

A variant of concern is one that is more transmissible, more lethal or that could evade the immune response.

The figures appear to show that although variant cases are being found, they are struggling to establish a foothold in Ireland. Scientists think this may be due to the dominance of the B117 UK variant.

Median age

There were 429 new cases and one further death reported in the State by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) on Sunday.

Of the Covid-19 cases reported on Sunday, the median age was 29.

There has now been a total of 246,633 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Ireland.

Of the cases notified on Sunday, 234 are men and 182 are women, while 78 are under 45 years of age.

As of 8am on Sunday, 174 Covid-19 patients were hospitalised, of which 45 are in ICU, and there were 13 additional hospitalisations in the previous 24 hours.

No further deaths of patients who previously tested positive for Covid-19 were notified in Northern Ireland on Sunday.

Another 73 people have tested positive for the virus in the last 24-hour reporting period. On Sunday morning, there were 60 confirmed Covid-19 patients in hospital, five of whom were in ICU.

Northern Ireland’s coronavirus vaccine programme will fully open to all those aged between 35 and 39 from Monday.

By Sunday, some 1,247,931 doses of the jab had been administered in the North.

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