The proliferation of coronavirus variants continues in Brittany. 22 patients with a particular English variant were recently discovered in Brest Métropole, Le Télégramme has learned. Four are located within the same cluster, born in a “collective accommodation structure” specializing in the management of employees and the unemployed; the other 18 are isolated cases. “All residing or having stayed in a limited geographical area around Brest,” says Public Health France.
“A first alert was sent on April 12 following its detection by sequencing in two patients domiciled in Finistère. The remaining cases were then discovered, eight by sequencing and twelve by screening », Explains ARS Bretagne to Le Télégramme. There would be no link, “at this stage”, between the cluster and the isolated cases detected.
The state of health of the 22 patients is, for the time being, “not worrying”. “They are isolated. No hospitalization and death are to be deplored, ”continues the agency.
A mutant English variant
The mutation detected is in any case not new: it was identified for the first time in Great Britain in December 2020. It is a variant of a variant, scientifically named “20I / 484K” (B.1.1 .7 + E484K / Q). Clear, an English variant (B.1.1.7) which acquired characteristics common to the South African and Brazilian variants (E484K / Q). Specifically, changes to the 484th amino acid of its spike protein – the famous strategic key that allows the virus to enter cells.
Little is yet known about the impact of this particular mutation. The hypotheses so far raised speak of a possible resistance of the virus to the antibodies developed by already infected subjects or vaccinated people, in addition to the greater contagiousness provided by the initial strain of the English variant. But this has not yet been formally demonstrated.
The E484Q mutation could be associated, like the E484K substitution found in the 20H / 501Y.V2, 20J / 501Y.V3 and 20I / 484K variants, with a significant impact in terms of post-infection and post-vaccination immune escape, but not formally demonstrated at this stage.
– Eric D’Ortenzio (@EricDortenzio) April 26, 2021
Vaccine failures and cases of reinfection
The mutation remains sufficiently worrying for the health authorities to classify it as a “worrying variant” in the world classification. The highest ranking, along with the English, Brazilian and South African variants.
Finistère is not the only French territory concerned by the discovery. 22 other patients with the mutant variant were identified in Ile-de-France, 3 in Hauts-de-France, 2 in Center-Val de Loire, 1 in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur and 1 in Pays-de -the Loire. “Several cases are associated with intra-family clusters, with transmissions in the absence of monitoring of barrier gestures”, deplores Public Health France. “Several vaccine failures (contamination after the injection of two doses of vaccine, Editor’s note) and a case of reinfection were also identified among the confirmed cases”. It is not known if the Breton patients are part of it.
Reinforced screening in Brest
On April 13, “20I / 484K” was found in 3% of the positive tests sequenced that day in Brittany, “on the increase”. A stronger presence than in Ile-de-France (2.7%).
A new study was launched Tuesday, April 27, to truly measure the extent of its dissemination in the region. “It will analyze all the positive samples taken that day in Finistère and samples in the other three departments, in order to draw up a map of all the viruses, known or not, which circulate on the territory”, announces the ARS to the Telegram.
At the same time, Targeted screening actions are carried out in the Brest conurbation. Three ephemeral points were opened at the end of April. Others will be implemented in the coming days (including the April 30 at the Guipavas sports complex).
For their part, the national authorities are trying to determine how such a strain arrived on French soil. “No recent international travel has been reported (among the confirmed cases). Outside the Brest Métropole cluster, it remains difficult at this stage to know whether the isolated cases detected reflect a low-noise community spread of this virus or mutually independent mutation acquisition events. », Recognizes Public Health France.
Indicators are deteriorating in Brest
The health situation in Brest Métropole has been deteriorating for several weeks. Four of the eight municipalities are above the reinforced alert threshold (Brest, Guilers, Gouesnou and Guipavas), against only one (Le Relecq-Kerhuon) at the beginning of the month. The incidence rate has increased from 80 cases per 100,000 inhabitants as of March 30, to 126 cases 20 days late. The positivity rate jumped from 2.3% to 5.1%.
But we cannot, in the state of current scientific knowledge, attribute this deterioration in health to the appearance of the English variant mutant in Finistère. ARS Bretagne calls on the population to continue to respect barrier gestures.
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