Covid variant that originated in Japan should be watched closely, expert says

New COVID variant ‘R.1’ with increased resistance to antibodies is identified at Kentucky nursing home where 45 residents and workers have fallen sick

  • Covid variant R.1 is a variant ‘to watch’, according to disease expert Dr Haseltine
  • He claimed it had established a foothold in both Japan and the US
  • But figures show it has been displaced in both countries by the Delta variant 

A Covid variant first identified in Japan should be watched closely because it may spread faster than other mutant strains and evade vaccines, an expert has claimed.

Former Harvard Medical School professor Dr William Haseltine alleged that the strain — dubbed R.1 — is a variant ‘to watch’.

He told Forbes: ‘It has established a foothold in both Japan and the United States.

‘In addition to several mutations notably in the spike protein in common with variants of concern, R.1 has a set of unique mutations that may confer additional advantage in transmission, replication and immune suppression.’

There have been 10,000 cases of the variant spotted worldwide since it emerged in February, and it has spread to 37 countries.

More than seven in ten of all cases have been identified in Japan where it was dominant in April. But the mutant strain has now mostly been replaced by Delta. 

In the UK, surveillance has identified 20 cases — with the last being detected four months ago. In the US there have been 2,000 cases, with the latest in August.

Neither Public Health England nor the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists the variant as of concern or under investigation.

In April the mutant strain was linked to an outbreak at a Kentucky nursing home where 46 vaccinated residents and workers were infected.

Infectious disease expert Dr. William Haseltine said it has infected 45 residents and health workers at a Kentucky nursing home (stock image)

It comes after the FDA approved booster vaccines for adults aged over 65 and for other vulnerable groups.

The agency said that concerns over the infectious Delta variant meant it was necessary to roll-out the shots.

They are available for anyone who has received their last dose at least six months ago.


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