These changes are likely to enhance the virus’s ability to enter cells, increasing viral load and making it more transmissible.
There are also two mutations in an area called the nucleocapsid, R203K and G204R, which were present in the alpha, gamma and lambda variants, and are known to increase infectivity.
As if this were not enough, there are also several changes that have never been seen before, which are also alarming scientists.
‘More of a hit on vaccines than anything we’ve seen so far’
Dr Jesse Bloom, a virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle, said that many mutations, particularly E484, G446, K417 and Q493, were at “peak escape sites”, meaning that many antibodies would be impacted.
“This does not mean that the nu variant will fully escape vaccine or infection-elicited antibodies. It takes many many mutations to fully escape neutralisation, and there are also T-cells,” he said.
“But I’d expect the nu variant to cause more of a hit on vaccines – and infection-elicited antibody neutralisation – than anything we’ve seen so far.”
Aside from the theoretical science of why it could be more infectious and dangerous, real world data is also suggesting that nu could cause serious problems.