French health authorities report new ‘Breton variant’ of Covid virus

Breton variant

A Breton variant of the SARS-CoV2 coronavirus has been identified in Brittany, after the appearance of a cluster at Lannion hospital. Investigations are underway “to assess its transmissibility and severity”

What is the characteristic of this “Breton variant”?

This Breton variant is currently detectable only by sequencing, and not by so-called conventional tests. Last week, in fact, the PCR tests (by nasopharyngeal swab) carried out on Breton patients were sometimes negative. However, they presented the usual symptoms of Covid. The samples were still sent to the laboratory for genome sequencing . They detected a new strain of the coronavirus within this cluster at the Lannion hospital center. On March 13, they identified 79 cases there, including 8 cases carrying this new variant, confirmed by sequencing.

Molecular analyzes, carried out by the Pasteur Institute, revealed that this new Breton variant had ” nine mutations in the region encoding the S protein but also in other viral regions”, specified the DGS in a message sent. health professionals. “An evaluation is underway in order to assess the possible impact of these genetic modifications on a lack of recognition by virological tests leading to an under-diagnosis”, she continues.

Is it more dangerous?

The Directorate General of Health announced Monday evening that this new strain had been classified as a “variant under investigation”. That is to say, it belongs to a category closely watched by the international scientific community because of its potentially problematic genetic characteristics. “The first analyzes of this new variant do not make it possible to conclude either to an increased severity or to an increased transmissibility compared to the historical virus”, indicated the DGS. Adding that “in-depth investigations are underway in order to better understand this variant”.

Breton Variant

The eight Lannion patients carrying this variant have all died, but for now; there is “no established causal link between these eight deaths and the new variant” and; “no conclusion of increased severity of the virus. “, According to ARS Bretagne. “This variant is under surveillance”, added its director, Stéphane Mulliez. He specified that it is, however, “not classified at this stage as a worrying variant”.

A “contact tracing” is under execution in the event of suspicion of the variant, according to the ARS. There will also be a “more intensive contact tracing” in order to “identify second generation contacts, contacts of contacts”.

How effective are vaccines against this new Breton variant?

“Experiments will take place to determine how this variant reacts to vaccination and to the antibodies developed during previous infections”. This is what the Public Health France and the Directorate General for Health ensure.

At this stage, nothing indicates that the variant would better resist vaccination, estimated the director of ARS Bretagne.


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