cientists fear a new ‘Finnish’ mutation of the coronavirus is going undetected and fuelling the spread of the disease.
The discovery was made by Helsinki-based Vita Laboratories who say it’s unlikely the variant emerged in Finland, given the country’s low rate of coronavirus infection. The Scandinavian country has had 51,595 cases and 723 deaths since the pandemic began.
Dubbed “Fin-796H” the mutation is different from the strains in South Africa and the United Kingdom, the lab said in a statement.
“Vita Laboratoriot Oy and the Institute of Biotechnology at the University of Helsinki have detected a previously unknown variant of the coronavirus in a sample from southern Finland.
“Mutations in this variant make it difficult to detect in at least one of the WHO-recommended PCR tests. This discovery could have a significant impact on determining the spread of the disease,” the laboratory said.
Ilkka Julkunen, Professor of Virology at the University of Turku, told local paper Yle the emergence of the variant was as yet not a major concern.
“I would not be hugely worried yet, because we do not have clear information that this new strain would be more easily transmitted or that it would affect the immune protection brought about by already having had the virus or having received a vaccination,” he said.
The Department of Health announced on Thursday that additional testing and genomic sequencing will be carried out in the LS8 postcode in a bid to detect infections and control the spread of the South African variant.
It is the latest area of the country to have targeted testing set up.
People in the LS8 postcode, including parts of Harehills and the area just north of Easterly Road where the variant was found, are being “strongly encouraged” to take a test when offered, whether or not they have symptoms.