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Brazil variant: Vaccines need to be redesigned to prevent further chaos, says expert

Brazil COVID variant: Zahawi grilled over quarantine measures

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Vaccines need to be redesigned to prevent widespread transmission of coronavirus variants such as that first found in Manaus, Brazil, an infectious disease expert has said. Professor Ravindra Gupta, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), said it was “fantastic” that the mystery person infected with the Manaus variant had been found. Prof Gupta said it is “always a possibility” that the Manaus P1 variant could become dominant in the UK but it is “unlikely at the moment because, first of all, we have low rates of transmission and we have a virus that has a transmission advantage”.

He told Times Radio: “But there will be people out there who have not been tracked and traced who have the variant and who may have transmitted it.”

“On the other hand, once many of us have been vaccinated, the shift for evolutionary paths for the virus will become to avoid immunity rather than just to transmit rapidly, it will be a combination of both.”

He added it was “inevitable that the list (of mutations) will grow because in many areas of the world transmission is still significant and transmission equals chronic infections”.

“On the other hand, we can take comfort in the fact that the virus is doing very similar things across all of these variants, so there are some very common themes coming along and very common mutations, so that helps us to design the next generation of vaccines”, he said.

It comes as the mystery person infected with the Manaus variant of coronavirus has been found.

Officials have been hunting for the unknown individual after cases of the variant of concern were detected in the UK.

Six cases of the P1 variant, first identified in the Brazilian city of Manaus, have been found – three in Scotland and three in England.

A public appeal was made for one of those people in England to come forward after they took a test in February but left no contact details.

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Earlier this week, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the hunt for the infected person had been narrowed down to 379 households in the south-east of England.

Public health officials have found the unnamed person and traced all of their contacts.

The individual’s location has not been reported.

The P1 variant, which was also detected in travellers from Brazil to Japan, was associated with a surge of cases in Manaus late last year.

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It is among a total of four variants of concern being tracked by scientists in the UK.

A study this week suggested that between 25 percent and 61 percent of people in Manaus who had previously had Covid were susceptible to reinfection with the concerning P1 variant.

The variant carries a mutation in the spike protein called E484K, raising concerns that vaccines may not be as effective against it.

On Monday, surge testing began in South Gloucestershire after two cases of the Manaus variant were detected in one local household which had a history of travel to Brazil.

News of the tracing of the mystery infected person comes as new data showed the number of people with Covid-19 in homes across England continues to fall – although the picture is uncertain in some regions.

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