A third ‘more infectious’ strain of coronavirus similar to the British and South African variants has been identified after mutating in Brazil.
The mutated variant of Covid was discovered in Tokyo, Japan last week in four people who had arrived on a flight from South America.
Scientists have said that the strain has similarities to those of the highly contagious variants found in England and South Africa.
Namely, it has a genetic mutation called N501Y, which changes the shape of the spike proteins found on the outside of the virus.
The mutation makes Covid more able to latch onto the receptors inside the body that it targets, meaning it makes it past the body’s natural defences more often.
People who are exposed to the virus therefore become infected more often than they would if the other person was infected with an older, less contagious strain. However, there is no evidence to suggest the mutation makes the virus more deadly.
A World Health Organization report on the variant last week said: ‘The variant was identified when whole-genome sequencing was conducted on samples from 4 travellers from Brazil who were tested at the airport.
‘Through our regional offices, we are working with both Japanese and Brazilian authorities to evaluate the significance of these findings.