A new Covid variant found in Asia is the most mutated version of the virus yet, according to scientists.
The morphed Delta variant was swabbed from a patient in Jakarta, Indonesia.
It has 113 different mutations, 37 of which affect the spike protein – the part used by the virus to latch on to humans.
The new strain has been labelled the “most extreme,” with the Omicron variant having around 50 mutations by comparison.
It’s believed to have been spawned by a case of chronic infection before it was submitted to a global Covid database in early July.
Chronic infections typically occur in individuals with health that is already compromised, such as those with chronic illnesses or undergoing cancer therapy.
While the threat of a new outbreak is possible, top doctors believe there’s no reason to panic – it’s highly unlikely to trigger more lockdowns.
Warwick University virologist Professor Lawrence Young said it wasn’t clear if the new strain would go on an infect others because it would need to beat the variants already in circulation, like the Omicron strains.
However, he said the possibility of the new strain emerging quietly is a concern, with countries like the UK dialling back genetic analysis processes as the pandemic dies down.
“This virus continues to surprise us and being complacent is dangerous,” Professor Young said.
“This highlights the problem of “living with the virus.”
He said the virus, as it spreads and mutates, will inevitably result in serious infections for those most vulnerable and increase the long-term consequences of the infection.
A lack of surveillance available to detect emerging variants that could already be resistant to immunity is leaving the world open to new threats.
“How will we know whether any new outbreaks of Covid are due to a new and potentially more dangerous variant?” he asked.
The new strain was highlighted by an online Covid variant tracker before being flagged by a US virologist.