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New SARS-CoV-2 stem presenting E48K mutation identified in Romania

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The new coronavirus version, presenting both the characteristics of the British strain B1.1.7 and the E484K mutation, which according to some studies can reduce the effectiveness of vaccines against the virus, has been identified in Romania, based on sequencing performed at the "Stefan cel Mare" University of Suceava (USV), shows a press release sent , on Monday, by the spokesperson of this academic institution, Codrut Serban.

According to the same source, the biological sample was collected at the Suceava County Emergency Hospital, from a patient without a recent history of travel to UK.

''For the three worrying variants known to be from the United Kingdom (line B.1.1.7, name VOC202012/01), South Africa (line B.1.351, name 501Y.V2 15) and Brazil (line P .1, name P.1), the Institute of Public Health of England added, in February, a new version of the virus (line B.1.1.7 + E484K, name VOC202102/02). Although the number of cases identified with the new version (B.1.1.7 + E484K) is currently relatively low (only 43 cases are presented in the British Report of 1 April 2021), the main concern comes from the ability of the versions presenting the E484K mutation to show greater resistance to vaccine-generated antibodies, thus reducing the effectiveness of vaccines. In March, the new version (B.1.1.7 + E484K) was introduced as a version of concern (VoC) also in the list of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), which monitors the epidemiological situation at the European Union level. In a statement issued on Sunday, April 4, by the Reuters agency, the concern regarding the spread of this version is also presented in Japan, approximately 70pct of the sequenced samples from a hospital in Tokyo presenting this mutation,' specified the USV press release.

During the Laboratory of Metagenomics and Molecular Biology of the "Stefan cel Mare" University of Suceava (USV), over the last two weeks, sequencing was performed for a number of 91 samples, from patients who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, in the counties of Suceava, Cluj, Iasi, Timis and Botosani.

From the analyzed samples, a number of 88 new cases were detected belonging to strains of epidemiological interest B.1.1.7 (VOC 202012/01), known to be originating in the United Kingdom, and one case belonging to strains B.1.1.7 + E484K.

To date, USV has sequenced over 400 samples from patients diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 and will continue to monitor the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 in Romania, in collaboration with its partners.

''Based on the collaboration agreements concluded so far, samples are selected from hospitals located in the counties of Suceava, Timis, Cluj, Dolj, Iasi, Botosani, Neamt and we express our willingness to collaborate with other institutions with COVID-19 compartments, in other counties, as well, to analyze the special situations and perform the corresponding genetic analyzes,' the USV representatives show.

The current sequencing activity at USV is partially funded by the Executive Unit for the Financing of Higher Education, Research, Development and Innovation through the project "SARS-CoV-2 genome sequencing and phylogenetic analysis of circulating strains in Romania," coordinated by university professor Mihai Covasa, PhD, being co-financed by USV. 

(Photo:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK554776/figure/article-52171.image.f3/

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