Experts from Brazil and the UK estimate the variant is more transmissible than previous versions of coronavirus found in Manaus. What is it and why is it a concern?
Brazil variant evaded up to 61% of immunity in previous Covid cases.
Scientists call for more genetic sequencing of emerging variants like P1 to bring pandemic under control
The coronavirus variant originally found in Manaus in Brazil and detected in six cases in the UK was able to infect 25% to 61% of the people in the Amazonian city who might have expected to be immune after a first bout of Covid, researchers say.
What do we know about the P1 variant?
Two coronavirus variants have been detected in Brazil, or in people who have travelled from Brazil, called P1 and P2. They are similar but it is P1 that is causing concern in the UK, after the detection of six cases – three in England and three in Scotland. The hunt is on for more – and to identify one of the people infected, who appears not to have registered their full details with NHS test and trace.
P1 was first detected in Japan, in people who had travelled from Manaus in Brazil. Investigations confirmed the variant in Manaus, the city on the Amazon river that suffered an intense first wave of coronavirus that peaked in April. A survey of blood donors in October suggested that 76% of the population had antibodies, so were presumed at least temporarily immune. But in January, there was a big resurgence among people who had previously recovered from Covid. P2 is widespread in Brazil and has fewer worrying mutations.
The UK’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) designated P1 a “variant of concern”. It was more transmissible – like the “Kent” variant B118 – but may also be capable of antigenic escape. In other words, the vaccines designed against coronavirus may not work so well against it, and people who had antibodies after a bout of Covid-19 might not have natural immunity.