Vietnam detects new COVID-19 variant, possible hybrid of strains from UK, India

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Vietnam health officials have detected a new coronavirus variant that appears to be a hybrid of two more transmissible strains, The Washington Post reported May 29.

Genetic sequencing of virus samples from several COVID-19 patients show the variant is a mix of coronavirus strains first found in the U.K. and India, Vietnam's Health Minister Dr. Nguyen Thanh Long said May 29, according to the Vietnemese newspaper VNExpress. At least four people in Vietnam had been found carrying the variant as of May 29.

The variant, which has not been named, is particularly transmissible via air and replicates very quickly in viral cultures, Dr. Long said, adding that the new strain has likely helped fuel the country's most recent spike in COVID-19 cases.

However, scientists told the Post more research is needed to understand the variant's effect in real-world settings.

"A lot of different mutations happen as the virus is transmitted, and most of them are not of clinical significance," said Todd Pollack, MD, an infectious disease expert from Boston-based Harvard Medical School currently based in Hanoi, Vietnam. "Just because they say [the new variant] has features of one and the other … doesn't mean they got together in one patient and spit out some combined hybrid 'supervirus.'"

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