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Now scientists spot ANOTHER variant: Finland detects new strain

Now scientists spot ANOTHER variant: Finland detects strain that ‘shares mutations with South African and Kent versions’

Finnish scientists claim to have found another coronavirus variant which shares some of the same mutations as other troublesome strains.

Only one case of the virus — temporarily named Fin-796H — has been spotted so far but experts have admitted they are unsure how widespread it is. 

Finland said was unlikely the variant emerged there, given the country’s low infection rate. The Scandinavian nation has recorded just 51,000 cases and 700 deaths since the pandemic took off.   

Finnish researchers who made the discovery said the variant shared some mutations previously discovered in the Kent and South African strains, but in a combination they called ‘unique’. 

They did not reveal what the mutations were, but they aren’t thought to be the changes which make those strains more infectious and immune-resistant. 

British scientists today insisted there was no reason to panic yet. Dr Simon Clarke, an infectious disease expert at the University of Reading, told MailOnline: ‘There’s no evidence there’s anything to worry about yet.’ 

So far, 450 cases of Covid variants have been spotted in Finland. Of them, 422 had the Kent strain, 22 had the South African version and one case of the Brazilian one. 

Finnish scientists claim to have found another coronavirus variant which shares some of the same mutations as other troublesome strains (file) 

No10’s top scientific advisers still insist the current crop of jabs should prevent severe illness and deaths against all new strains currently circulating, even if they don’t stop people falling ill.

As long as vaccines serve their main purpose of taking pressure off the NHS, Britain should finally be able to safely ease its way out of the relentless cycle of lockdowns.

Boris Johnson is set to unveil his roadmap out of the national shutdown on Monday, where he will also reveal data showing how effective the jab roll out has been.  

Taru Meri, from Vita Laboratories, told local media in Finland today: ‘Details about the infectivity and potential resistance of this strain to vaccines are not yet known. 

Professor Ilkka Julkunen, a virologist at the University of Turku, told Yle: ‘I would not be hugely worried yet.

‘We do not have clear information that this strain would be more easily transmitted or that it would affect the immune protection brought about by already having had the virus or having received a vaccination.’

Petri Auvinen, research director of the University of Helsinki’s Institute of Biotechnology, told the newspaper the finding was not a major concern because new variants of the coronavirus were simply ‘a matter of time.’ 

The researchers said regular PCR tests – the gold standard Covid tests around the world – will not be able to detect the new variant.

This is also the case with the South African variant, which can only be confirmed through lab anaylsis. Whereas the swabs do pick up the Kent strain.

The PCR test looks for three genes present on the original virus that came out of China, the S gene, N gene and ORF1ab. 

Health officials are able to spot the Kent strain with regular PCR because that variant is missing the S gene. 

But the South African version is harder to track because it shares all three genes with the original strain so PCR results cannot differentiate between the two, meaning researchers need to manually sequence each sample in a laboratory.

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