New COVID variant found in France: Reason for panic or not quite yet?

The Jerusalem Post:

The spike protein of the variant known as B.1.640 has some unprecedented mutations.

A new COVID variant identified in a handful of European countries is raising concerns among some health professionals because there are changes to the coronavirus spike protein that have never been seen before.

The variant, known either as B.1.X or B.1.640, was first reported by the French paper Le Telegramme after it infected 24 people at a French school in the Brittany region last month. When the variant was discovered in France, the school at which the outbreak occurred was forced to close half of its classes, Le Telegramme reported.

Although the situation is now under control and no cases have been found in France since October 26, the French Regional Health Agency said, the variant remains under surveillance.

A handful of cases were also discovered in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Scotland and Italy, although the Delta variant and its descendants continue to be the most dominant strains.

Bar-Ilan University Prof. Cyrille Cohen, who is originally from France and regularly interviews and consults with French health officials, explained that the B.1.640 variant has some unprecedented mutations. One in particular has drawn attention: the spike protein, which is what allows the virus to cling to the human cell and start the infection process, has some deletions.

The question is whether this will make the virus more or less infectious.

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