QCOSTARICA – Last December, a group of Costa Rican scientists pointed out that there was a variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes covid-19 that was very rare in the world, but very common in Costa Rica.
Today, with more analyzes carried out, the scientists indicate that between September and November the presence of this variant – the “Tica variant” doubled and went from being in 14.5% of the analyzed genomes to be in 29.2%.
To put things in perspective, this variant is only seen in 0.08% of the genomes analyzed worldwide. 25.3% of the reports of this variant worldwide come from Costa Rica.
Our variant is characterized by a mutation called T117I. This is found in a key protein of the virus, called the spike or S.
These conclusions are taken from an analysis with 185 genomes of the virus from people from different parts of the country.
A genomic analysis studies the virus gene by gene, and based on that, it is seen if there are changes (mutations) in its composition.
Researchers recall that the Tica viral variant is not something we need to worry about. 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.
There is also no evidence that it will cause problems with the effectiveness of diagnostic tests and vaccines.
“The predictions we have made with mathematical models do not tell us that something like this is going to happen,” said Jose Arturo Molina Mora, microbiologist and doctor in Bioinformatics who coordinated this publication and the one in December.
It is simply a scientific finding that confirms that of the viruses that circulate in Costa Rica there is a “family” that is becoming more and more common. Although this “family” is still not the most common of those we have.
The T117I mutation is in 29.2% of the genomes studied, but there are others, such as the D614G that is in 99%. However, this last mutation is very common in the rest of the world.
What is striking about T117I is that very few countries have reported it, including Germany (the first country to report it), Colombia, Malaysia and Australia, but they do not do so to the extent seen in our country.
The results of this preliminary pre-printed research are available on the bioRxiv – the preprint server for biology – platform. The finding has not yet been peer-reviewed (subject matter experts who weigh the document and send their doubts to ensure the weight of the evidence), so Costa Rican researchers continue to study. These data are considered preliminary.
Another relevant aspect of this analysis is that the presence of variants that are considered more transmissible, such as those that emerged in the United Kingdom, South Africa or Brazil, has not been demonstrated.