Thursday 2 December 2021

Costa Rica monitors five more cases of variants of the covid-19 virus

Three of them are ‘variants of concern’, arising in the United Kingdom and South Africa; two others are "variants of interest" that could negatively affect, but there is no conclusive data yet

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QCOSTARICA – The Instituto Costarricense de Investigación y Enseñanza en Nutrición y Salud (Inciensa) – Costa Rican Institute for Research and Teaching in Nutrition and Health – has identified 5 more cases of covid-19 associated with variants from the United Kingdom, South Africa and California.

The presence of these variants was determined through genomic analysis of the virus
  • The VOC202012 / 01 variant, originally described in the United Kingdom, was detected in a patient of French nationality, with a history of travel to Argentina.
  • The 501Y.V2, a variant originally described in South Africa, was detected in 2 cases: one is of to the same group of French tourists who visited Costa Rica last January; the other in a foreign patient whose nationality is not given in the information that accompanies the analyzed sample.
  • The fourth case, it is the variant described for the first time in California, detected in 55-year-old patient, a resident of San Jose.
  • The fifth case is of the variant B.1.525_484K.V3_20A / S, originally described in the United Kingdom and Nigeria in December 2020, deteced in a 40-year-old patient, also a resident of San Jose.

To date, Inciensa has identified in the country a total of 7 cases associated with the different variants of SARS-CoV-2.

The first two were detected late last month: in the first, the UK variant was detected in a 35-year-old female, who began to have symptoms on January 27; the second case,  of the South African variant, detected in a 65-year-old foreign patient. This person began to have symptoms on January 31. Both were hospitalized in a Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS) hospital.

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO):

  • The VOC202012 / 01 variant has been associated with an increase in the transmissibility and severity of the disease.
  • The 501Y.V2 variant presents greater transmissibility when compared to others, although there are no reports that associate it with greater severity.
  • The variant (VOI) B.1.427_452R_CAL.20C has mutations that could have some negative effect on the immune response of the affected person.

“To date, the Costa Rica’s genomic surveillance system, which coordinates Inciensa and other institutions such as the Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR) – University of Costa Rica, and Hospital Nacional de Niños – Children’s Hospital, it has produced more than 330 SARS-CoV-2 genomes.

“Due to the importance of these findings, Inciensa will continue to carry out this work. This in order to identify new genetic or structural variants of importance epidemiology for the diagnosis, prevention and control of the disease,” indicated the institution.

This is what the SARS-CoV-2 virus looks like in an electron microscope. This virus is the cause of the covid-19 disease. Photograph: NIAID

No matter the variant, the care is the same

Virologist Eugenia Corrales Aguilar, as well as the director of the Laboratorio de Análisis Genómico del Inciensa (InciensaGenomic Analysis Laboratory), Francisco Duarte, are emphatic: beyond the variants, whether they are more contagious or not, we must do what is in our power to avoid getting infected .

The forms of prevention have not changed: hand washing, physical distancing, the use of a mask in closed spaces and avoiding small, crowded and poorly ventilated areas.

“Self-care is the most effective way to avoid an increase in the number of infections and avoid mutations,” stressed Duarte.

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“Vaccination can put pressure on the virus but it is not the only tool. If we give the virus room to spread, it will mutate.

“We are exhausted, fed up, but we must continue to take care of ourselves a little more, there is already light at the end of the tunnel, but we have not reached that end,” said Corrales.

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