Science

Covid-19: the British “mutant” will inevitably replace the current virus

The British “mutant”, found today in 1.3% to 1.4% of positive tests for Covid-19, should dominate in two to three months in France: “it is an inevitable switch”, explains to the ‘AFP Professor Bruno Lina, who coordinates the mapping of his circulation at the national level.

“All the measures that we will take will not eliminate the British mutant which will replace the current virus”, continues Thursday the professor of virology at the CHU de Lyon, director of the National Reference Center for respiratory infectious viruses at the hospital de la Croix Rousse and researcher at the International Center for Infectious Disease Research (CIRI).

“It’s an inevitable change. The important thing is that it happens without cost to public health. By continuing the barrier gestures, masks, distancing and vaccination, first of all the most fragile, this will reduce its dynamics, “he notes. By showing himself relatively reassuring: “it will be the management of the epidemic”.

“Rather than variant, I prefer to speak of British mutant, even if the word can be a little scary. It is in a way a clone”, remarks with a smile Professor Lina who is tracking this newcomer from Great Britain where he has been blazing for several weeks.

The results of “our latest + flash survey + which covers all PCR tests positive for Covid-19 on January 6 and 7 shows in consolidated data that 1.3% to 1.4% of viruses circulating in France are carriers of the British mutant “, reveals the virologist, also member of the Scientific Council of the government. “It will perhaps move a little more, but at the margin”.

“There may be an overestimation of the circulation because some detections of the variant were made in a + cluster + context with several dozen cases”, he notes. “There are also regional disparities”.

“We must not imagine that because we found 1.4% at the beginning of January, we will find 30% at the end of January. It would be very worrying. But it is very unlikely,” said Professor Lina. “And if that ever happens, it’s because at some point we missed the control of the circulation of this virus.”

Across the Channel, the change took about two to three months to gain momentum. “Legitimately, we can think that the expansion of the virus will take the same time in France. If we do nothing”.

One thing is certain: “This virus is there. It circulates and will inexorably increase compared to other viruses. It is not the presence of this variant which explains the epidemic resumption. It is very clear, that we are sees today is not due to this 1.4% of viruses detected. “

And the British virus “is neither more dangerous nor more pathogenic, but it is more transmissible”, he recalls.

– additional injection –

Can a mutation of the virus call into question the effectiveness of anti-Covid-19 vaccines?

This does not appear to be the case with the British, which is “not an antigenic variant but a behavioral variant”.

On the other hand, “with the South African and Brazilian variants, also found in Japan, there is a signal that the immunity would not protect perfectly. This would mean that the effectiveness of current vaccines could be less good”.

But, reassures Professor Lina, “messenger RNA vaccines are easy to evolve quickly, in a few weeks”.

In this case, it would suffice “a complementary vaccination for the new variant, with a single dose for people already vaccinated. We have resources,” he says.

Prime Minister Jean Castex said Thursday that the epidemic situation in France was “under control” but “fragile”.

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