Sunday 4 December 2022

Costa Rican scientists find a common coronavirus variant in our country: neither more contagious, nor more aggressive nor more lethal

Mutation present in less than 1% of the samples analyzed in the world was found in 14.5% of Costa Ricans, according to research carried out by UCR, Inciensa and CCSS

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QCOSTARICA – A potentially more contagious variant of SARS-CoV-2 found in the United Kingdom caused the dynamics of European countries to change, resulting in suspended flights, requiring testing from travelers, limited ground transportation and greater restrictions.

Different variants of the virus circulate in the world, all with sufficient genetic differences to be part of separate classifications.

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One of them is in Costa Rica and has become a characteristic of our population. It is present in 14.5% of the genomes that have been sequenced so far in the country (that is, of the genetic studies that have been carried out on the virus).

This figure may seem low, however, if the samples analyzed worldwide are taken into account, this mutation is observed in less than 1% of cases.

“In the world it is seen in more or less 0.08% of the samples analyzed. Contrasting that with 14.5% in Costa Rica is a lot,” summarized Jose Arturo Molina Mora, microbiologist and doctor in Bioinformatics who coordinated the publication.

The data were published last Thursday on bioRxiv (pronounced “bio-archive”), a free online archive and distribution service for unpublished preprints in the life sciences.. The finding has not yet been peer-reviewed (subject matter experts who weigh the document and send their doubts to ensure the weight of the evidence), so Costa Rican researchers continue to study. Nor should the findings be regarded as conclusive, guide clinical practice/health-related behavior, or be reported as established information.

This ethical viral variant is not something we should worry about. The scientists behind this finding confirm that there is no evidence that it is a type of virus that is more easily transmitted, or that it causes more serious manifestations; neither is it more deadly, nor is it related to less immunity after recovery.

This is the mutation in the Spicula protein or Spike present in the Costa Rican variant. Image taken biorxiv.org

There is also no evidence that there will be problems of effectiveness in diagnostic tests and vaccines.

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“The predictions we have made with mathematical models do not tell us that something like this is going to happen,” stressed the specialist.

It is simply a scientific finding that demonstrates the capabilities of Costa Rican science: knowing that our virus has “a different clothing”.

Variants in viruses are the most normal, they go through constant mutation (genetic change). And, in the vast majority of cases, these do not modify the symptoms, its aggressiveness, or the lethality of the virus, nor do they make it more contagious.

That is why the case of the United Kingdom is being studied so closely, although the Costa Rican researchers clarify that within the analysis, the variants that have generated concern in the British Isles were not found. Nor was a similar variant found that worries the South African authorities.

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