A Finnish laboratory has announced the discovery of a new variant of Covid-19. The mutations which characterize it could make its detection by certain PCR tests impossible.
On February 17, experts from Vita laboratories located in Helsinki said they had discovered a new variant of Covid-19. The mutations that characterize it could make it undetectable by current PCR tests. However, its resistance to vaccines or its transmissibility are not yet known.
This new strain was detected last week in a patient and named Fin-796H. Given the low circulation of Covid-19 in Finland (Less than 53,000 cases recorded, for a population of 5.5 million inhabitants), the probabilities that this variant has appeared in the Scandinavian country are low.
According to Finnish public media Yle, this “Finnish variant” has some mutations previously found in the British and South African variants, but in a combination that Vita scientists have called “unique”.
A mutation in the gene on which some PCR tests are based
The laboratory considers that the discovery of this new variant is significant because it could not be detectable by many PCR tests due to the mutation affecting the N gene of the virus, as specified. The Obs. Indeed, some PCR tests work by looking for several genetic sequences of the virus, but others only target this N gene. The latter would therefore probably be unable to detect the Fin-796H variant.
However, Ilkka Julkunen, professor of virology at the University of Turku told Yle that she is not worried, because “we do not have clear information on whether this new strain is more easily transmitted or whether it affects the immune protection provided by having already had the virus or having received a vaccination ”.
Finland is so far one of the countries in Europe least affected by Covid-19, with 131 deaths from the disease per million inhabitants, against 1,229 for France.