A group of double jabbed pensioners in Lombardy, Italy were infected with the Delta variant with the E484K mutation over the summer and one of them needed hospital treatment
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Cases of a new mutated Covid variant which threatens to get around the vaccine have doubled in two weeks in the UK.
The strain, which is a version of the Delta coronavirus variant with a mutation called E484K, has been a cause of concern for scientists for some months.
Studies have suggested that antibodies created by the jab may be less effective at stopping its spread than with previous versions of the virus.
As of September 13 there had been 17 cases of the variant recorded in the UK.
Two weeks later that number had more than doubled to 33.
Globally the number of cases has shot up from 99 to 345 over the same time period, although the true number is likely much higher.
The Delta variant is now the dominant strain around the globe and has been reported in 187 out of 194 World Health Organization member countries.
The strain has some features which make it more resistant to Covid vaccines, although two jabs typically give 90% protection against hospitalisation.
The new mutation has the potential to be more resistant against the jabs, although it is currently unclear how significant the difference is.
While the strain’s spread is too limited to be certain, one outbreak over the summer gives reason to be hopeful that the vaccine’s defences will remain strong.
A group of fully vaccinated pensioners in their late 70s and 80s in Lombardy were infected with Delta plus E484K in July.
Only one of them was hospitalised, suggesting the jabs may hold up well against the mutation.
The outbreak is detailed in a research letter published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases , entitled “Breakthrough Infections of E484K-Harboring SARS-CoV-2 Delta Variant, Lombardy, Italy”.
Until July, neither Delta nor any of its sub-lineages carried the E484K mutation.
The mutation is present in the Beta variant first identified in South Africa, but that strain did not have the same high level of contagiousness as Delta.
Last week, Public Health England said it had designated Delta with E484K as a “signal under investigation” but added: “We constantly monitor all data relating to SARS-CoV-2 variants in the UK and abroad.
“Delta with E484K is not a Variant Under Investigation or a Variant of Concern at this time. When cases are identified, health protection teams are informed so that they can take actions appropriate to the epidemiological situation.”