Another new variant of coronavirus has been identified by scientists which has potentially concerning mutations.
The variant, known as B.1.525, contains a genetic change that was also found in the Brazilian and South African variants, and as of Tuesday, 38 cases have been identified in the UK.
Public Health England (PHE) have been quick to allay any fears, saying there is no evidence that the mutation makes the virus more transmissible or causes more serious damage.
The new variant has already emerged in other countries, including Australia, Denmark, Nigeria, Canada and the US.
“PHE is monitoring data about emerging variants very closely and where necessary public health interventions are being undertaken, such as extra testing and enhanced contact tracing,” said Yvonne Doyle, PHE Medical Director.
“There is currently no evidence that this set of mutations causes more severe illness or increased transmissibility.
“The best way to stop the spread of the virus is to follow the public health advice – wash your hands, wear a face covering and keep your distance from others.
“While in lockdown, it is important that people stay at home where possible.”
The most concerning factor of this most recent variant is that it contains the E484K mutation, meaning it is more likely to be able to evade natural and vaccine-triggered immunity.
Dr Simon Clarke, an associate professor of cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, told the Guardian that the presence of the E484K mutation was known in the South Africa variant to confer a degree of resistance to some vaccines.
He said: “We don’t yet know how well this (new) variant will spread, but if it is successful it can be presumed that immunity from any vaccine or previous infection will be blunted.”
Other new variants of concern in the UK include the South African variant, with 202 cases, and the Bristol variant, with 22 cases.
A variant first identified in Liverpool, which has been dubbed by the PHE as VUI, currently has 56 cases.
Scientists are already working on new vaccines to target coronavirus variants, some of which may become available during autumn.