More infectious coronavirus variants will emerge, disease expert predicts

More infectious coronavirus variants will emerge, disease expert predicts

Highly contagious strains already detected in several countries including UK and South Africa

Highly contagious new variants of coronavirus will emerge more frequently and spur further infection waves such as those threatening to overwhelm hospitals in the UK and South Africa, one of the world’s leading infectious disease experts has warned.

Salim Abdool Karim, chairman of South Africa’s Covid-19 ministerial advisory committee, also said it was too early to know the extent to which existing vaccines would provide immunity to the new variants.

Scientists around the world have been alarmed by the rapid spread of the new 501.v2 variant first detected in South Africa and the equally infectious B.1.1.7 variant that has led to a recent surge in cases in the UK. Other variants have emerged recently in Brazil and Japan.

Prof Abdool Karim, the epidemiologist who led South Africa’s fight against HIV/Aids, explained that viruses evolved as they infected people with partial immunity in order to escape recognition by their antibodies.