The new strain of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 that has emerged in South Africa and neighboring countries will likely be given the Greek letter “nu” if the World Health Organization determines that it merits being named, according to Evercore ISI analysts. The strain, called B.1.1.529 for now, has become dominant in South Africa and has reached 90% of cases in Guateng, which is the smallest province in the country, with more than 1,000 cases a day being estimated, according to Evercore analyst Josh Schimmer. The strain “(may have evolved in an immune compromised patient) has 32 mutations in the spike protein (including some in the RBD) and is reportedly the “most distant” (i.e. mutated) from the original strain yet,” Schimmer wrote in a note to clients. “It has RBD and NTD mutations associated with resistance to neutralizing antibodies, and has potentially enhanced transmission.” The World Health Organization will meet Friday to assess the strain, but it may take weeks to fully understand, a WHO spokesperson told AFP.
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