HANOI, VIETNAM — A new coronavirus hybrid that combines the Indian variant with mutations originally belonging to the U.K. variant has been detected in Vietnam, according to the country's health minister, cited by the AFP.
The Indian variant is able to spread more easily than earlier forms of the virus partly because of a mutation it carries on its spike protein called L452R, according to Grace Roberts, Research Fellow in Virology at Queen's University Belfast, writing in the Conversation.
The L452R mutation allows the virus to bind to ACE2 receptors on human cells more stably.
Once the two are bound together, the cell's membrane engulfs the virus and internalizes it.
The Indian variant also carries a second mutation on the spike protein, called E484Q.
According to Roberts at Queen's University, research suggests mutations that affect this area of the spike protein may make the virus less susceptible to pre-existing antibodies.
The new variant found in Vietnam combines both of these previous mutations with a Y144 deletion on its protein spike that is consistent with the U.K variant, according to Vietnam's National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, cited by VN Express.
This missing amino acid could also make it more difficult for antibodies to stick to the virus, according to the New York Times.
After keeping the virus at low levels for most of last year, Vietnam's infections since late April account for more than half of its total 6,856 registered cases, according to AFP on May 30.
After keeping the virus at low levels for most of last year, Vietnam's infections since late April accounted for more than half of its total 6,856 registered cases, according to a May 30 AFP report.
The WHO has not yet made any assessment of the apparent new virus variant.
However, it has introduced a new naming system for notable variants, based on the Greek alphabet.
A statement on its website said naming variants after particular countries was "stigmatizing and discriminatory."