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New coronavirus variant discovered by university in Belgium

Credit: Belga/Dirk Waem

A new mutation of the coronavirus (Covid-19) has been detected in Belgium by the university in Liège (ULiège) and currently accounts for around 4% of the infections in the country.

The strain – B.1.214 or “Spike Insertion” – was first discovered in January this year, and its spread is being closely monitored by researchers from ULiège and KU Leuven, according to reports from Le Soir.

“For the moment, the viruses of a hundred or so patients with this variant have been sequenced, and much more is needed to know its effects. But we can see that it is gradually increasing in Belgium, particularly in Brussels, Flemish Brabant, and Hainaut,” said Vincent Bours, professor of human genetics and head of the Sars-Cov-2 analysis and sequencing laboratory at ULiège.

He added that this variant attracted the attention of scientists because it had a “mutation that had almost never been observed before.”

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Although its unique mutation is of interest to researchers, the strain is not currently classified as a variant of concern, as it is as prominent in the country as the South African and Brazilian variants.

However, researchers are “almost certain that it is not a Belgian strain,” and believe it could have originated from sub-Saharan Africa, and may have been brought to the country through travel.

One ULiège researcher, Keith Durkin, identified the variant as part of the national genomic surveillance program for the coronavirus which was launched at the end of December in Belgium.

Lauren Walker
The Brussels Times