Science and politics are concerned about the British corona mutation "B.1.1.7". The evidence that the variant, with its numerous mutations, is significantly more infectious is becoming more and more numerous. We spoke to physician Richard Greil from the Salzburg State Clinics about it. </p><div> <p>Mutations are not unusual in viruses because they happen all the time. In the process, the pathogen's genetic makeup changes in order to adapt to its environment. In the case of the novel coronavirus, more than 300,000 different mutations have now been detected.
SALZBURG24: Prof. Dr. Greil, what can you say about the mutation “B.1.1.7” so far?
Richard Greil: In Great Britain, the mutation is likely to have occurred in more than 50 percent of all new infections. “B.1.1.7” has meanwhile been found in almost all of Europe. This mutation is significantly more infectious – namely by up to 70 percent. However, the mutation does not seem to have a more severe course. At least that’s what the data so far shows. Nevertheless, this means a higher infection rate, which will lead to a higher burden in hospitals.
And now exactly the same thing is happening again: the danger posed by new virus variants is not taken seriously, it is again waited until it is too late, and again the voice of science is ignored. One look at the UK should be enough to see what we’re slipping on.
— Isabella Eckerle (@EckerleIsabella) January 3, 2021
We have to reckon with a massive increase, especially since, according to the current state of knowledge, the mutation has also been observed more frequently in children. However, a PCR test cannot differentiate between a conventional corona infection and a mutation.
And how can you tell the difference?
In order to determine a mutation, the RNA sequences must be specifically examined in the laboratory. It can then be compared to the original coronavirus genome or its mutations. It is normal for a virus to change and mutate.
Could the current high number of infections in Salzburg be due to the mutated virus?
That will only be seen. In Austria, it has not been customary to date for positive corona samples to be systematically sequenced and examined for mutations. AGES has already announced that it will change this and increase the sequencing rate. We will also be sending material from Salzburg this week for sequencing in order to gain more clarity about the infection process in the state.
Is the vaccination against the coronavirus effective despite the mutation?
That is very likely. There is no evidence that vaccination is not effective in the mutation. However, rolling out the vaccination campaign in Austria will be very time-consuming. To protect vulnerable groups, 30,000 to 40,000 vaccinations per day are necessary and we are very far from that. Mouth and nose protection, contact restrictions and distance rules will continue to accompany us in everyday life for the time being, despite the start of the vaccination.
Almost 400 new corona infections in Salzburg
According to the Ministry of the Interior and Health, 2,540 new coronavirus infections were recorded in Austria on Monday. 378 new cases were added in Salzburg.
Is it justified to worry about a third wave?
It is too early to make a serious statement about it. In the last week of the current lockdown, one should look at the development of the number of cases and the situation in the hospitals. Only then can it be estimated how the infection process may develop. Nevertheless, the infection rate is currently very high – despite a lockdown. We have to get below the mark of 1,000 new infections (2,540 new cases on January 7th, note) per day in Austria, that’s the goal.
Thank you for the interview.
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