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May 30, 2022 View:

US media says mutated strain of New Coronavirus originated from a bottle of wine bet

According to a Jan. 7 CNN article titled "New crown mutant strain found in U.K. and South Africa began with a bet on a bottle of wine" by veteran medical journalist Elizabeth Cohen, the discovery of the important new crown virus mutant strain in the U.K. and South Africa began with a bet on a bottle of wine.

Image from: Xinhua News Agency

The full article is excerpted below.

In mid-November 2020, a South African genetic laboratory began receiving anxious calls from doctors in the country"s Eastern Cape province, saying that the number of newly crowned patients was exploding and rapidly exceeding the hospital's admission limit. This growth seemed to be unexplained.

This is shocking. Tullio Oliveira said he was the head of the genetic laboratory. Over the next week, he genetically sequenced samples of the virus taken from 16 patients, all of whom had similar mutations, and who were hundreds of kilometers away from each other.

Olivera's instincts told him that a more contagious, mutated strain was spreading rapidly.

More worryingly, some of the mutations are linked to genes for the viral surface spike-in protein. New coronavirus tests, new coronavirus treatment drugs and vaccines, all target the stinger protein. If the stinger protein is mutated, tests, drugs and vaccines may fail in droves.

Oliveira asked laboratories across South Africa to send samples of the patient's virus for testing. One of the labs is located in Stellenbosch, home to a famous South African winery.

Susan Engelbrecht, a scientist at the Stellenbosch lab, told Oliveira that it would also be amazing if the new variant had spread to her area, which is more than 700 kilometers from where the mutant strain of poison was first discovered.

I bet her she'd send me a bottle of wine if she found this mutated strain in more than 50% of the local samples of the virus, Olivella said, and she said it wasn't just about a bottle of wine, if so, she'd eat her own hat!

As a result, 58 of 67 local samples in Stellenbosch were of this variant strain.

A few days later, on Dec. 4, Oliveira sent an urgent email to WHO officials. I would like to request an urgent addition to today's agenda to raise awareness about some initial findings in South Africa.

The request was approved. Oliveira then notified other scientists around the world, pointing out that this variant contained a mutation in the stinger protein N501Y. He also encouraged his colleagues to look for similar mutations in their respective countries.

Andrew Lamb, a professor at the University of Edinburgh in England, took on the work. He and colleagues examined genetic data for the virus in the United Kingdom and also found a variant containing the N501Y mutation, and that it was spreading rapidly in southern England. They published the finding on Dec. 20, 2020.

Maria van Kerckhove, WHO technical lead for the new coronavirus, said the discovery of Oliveira was certainly a trigger for British scientists to look for other virus variants. I am pleased with this international collaboration.

We are in an extremely dangerous race with the new coronavirus, she said. She cited the explosion of cases experienced in the United States and some other countries. Our concern is that the longer the virus is transmitted, the more chances it has to mutate.