In the battle against the Covid-19 epidemic, the coronavirus variants worry the authorities. We know the British, South African, Brazilian or even Breton variant, but there are actually many more. Last February, British Vaccine Deployment Minister Nadhim Zahawi estimated on Sky News that there were around 4,000.
These mutations aren’t surprising for a virus like the coronavirus, and they don’t have to be serious. Only a few result in a significant change in the behavior of the virus, and they are not necessarily more dangerous. But if there are many versions of the coronavirus that we know, can we be infected by several at the same time?
A priori yes, according to several studies, but cases remain very rare for the time being. Last March, Brazilian scientists identified two cases of double infection with different variants : women in their thirties who have not been very sick, and have not needed hospitalization, then indicated CNN.
The authors of the study, published in the journal Virus Research, believe that the possibility of double infection “adds a new factor to the complex interaction” between the immune response and virus mutations.
One of the risks of these potential co-infections is the creation of so-called “recombinant” or “chimeric” variants. By infecting the same cell in the same person, the genomes of the two variants mix, and create a third. On March 17, the COG-UK consortium, a team responsible for sequencing the virus in the United Kingdom, revealed on the site Virological.org the existence of eleven of these variants.
The recombination process is normal in viruses, and it does not necessarily mean that the new variant will be more dangerous.
An Indian “double mutant”?
For now, only the so-called Indian “double mutant”, the B.1.617 variant detected for the first time in October 2020, seems to be a problem. It would have the properties of two distinct strains: E484Q, close to the South African and Brazilian variant, known for its contagiousness, and L452R, which would better resist antibodies.
“Such mutations confer ‘immune leakage’ and increased infectivity“, explained the Indian Ministry of Health in a press release at the end of March.
The name “double mutant” nevertheless does not convince the entire scientific community, reminds The world, and it could therefore be something other than a recombination of the two variants mentioned above. For the time being, the B.1.617 variant has not been detected in France and there is no indication that it is resistant to vaccines or more fatal.