By Ricardo Brito
BRAZIL (Reuters) – Brazilian researchers have identified a new variant of the coronavirus, first discovered in South Africa in a woman who became infected with COVID-19 for the second time, and said it was the first such case in the world.
There have been other cases of reinfection in Brazil and the South African variant was discovered earlier, but reinfection with this mutation in the virus is thought to be the first, the researchers said.
A 45-year-old woman from the northeastern state of Bahia is involved in the case, researchers from the D’Or Institute for Research and Training (IDOR) said after performing genetic sequencing of her viral infection.
“This mutation was recently identified in Rio de Janeiro, but for the first time in the world it has been linked to reinfection with SARS-CoV-2,”
“We observed, in the genetic sequence of the virus present in the second case, the E484K mutation, which is a mutation originally identified in South Africa and which has caused great concern in the medical field as it can inhibit the action of antibodies against the virus,” Solano said.
The results of the study are expected to be published in the medical journal The Lancet. A case report (https://bit.ly/39iJCnS) was published Wednesday before a peer review of the Preprints.org website.
Researchers say the woman, who lived in the city of El Salvador, was infected twice: first on May 20 and then again on October 26. Her symptoms were more severe for the second time, researchers said.
Brazil is suffering from the second deadliest coronavirus outbreak after the United States, with more than 200,000 dead and 8 million confirmed cases. Right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, who has minimized the severity of the highly contagious disease, has been criticized for reacting slowly to the health crisis.
The evolution of the coronavirus raises concerns that some mutations may allow the virus to evade immunity from previous infections or vaccines.
So far, there is no strong evidence to suggest that any of the many options circulating in the world are different enough that the immune system would not recognize one after encountering another.
Cases of reinfection are thought to occur because people have insufficient immune protection left over from the first infection.
Preliminary results from a laboratory study published Thursday and pending peer review have shown that the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE is likely to remain effective against new highly transmissible variants found in the UK and South Africa.