It is a short sentence written at the turn of the last report of the scientific council devoted to the variant which for two months ravages the Indian subcontinent and made public Friday May 28th. French experts describe the British situation there, before moving on to France. They exhibit the photo as of May 18, with 77 cases, isolated or small clusters, spread across nine regions. And the observation falls: “This is reminiscent of the situation we were in with the UK variant [Royaume-Uni] from the end of December 2020. “
After the third wave, fed by the British mutant and from which we are barely emerging, could France experience a fourth wave, as unexpected as it is formidable?
It is difficult, on reading these few words and the current picture, not to ask the question. Because there are points in common between the two situations, both in what we know about this new pathogen, and in what we ignore and fear. But also – and very fortunately – differences, starting with the state of progress of the vaccination campaign. “The progression of the Indian variant in France seems inexorable, estimates virologist Bruno Lina, director of the National Reference Center for Respiratory Infections in Lyon and member of the Scientific Council. Will the substitution between this mutant and the English variant be done while maintaining a general decrease in cases? This is what we all hope for. But there are still a lot of unknowns. “
Scientists have accumulated some certainties. Starting with the genetic structure of the variant, or rather variants: three, which appeared successively in India, which share most of the nine mutations on the S protein characteristic of what is called the “Indian variant”. One of them, called B.1.617.2, concentrates the concerns. Scientists are particularly looking at three of its mutations, named L452R, T478K and P681R, which may make the virus more contagious or less sensitive to antibodies produced by vaccines. Or both.
The British are disillusioned
Wherever it has gone, this B.1.617.2 has continued to progress. First in India. Long invisible, it slowly grew in March before exploding in April, largely taking precedence both over its two cousins but also over the British variant B.1.1.7, however reputed to be particularly aggressive. There is no doubt now that he is responsible for the local health disaster, its 28 million cases and some 332,000 deaths.
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