Concern develops over Brazilian SARS-CoV-2 variant

Concern is developing over a variant of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) that shows similar mutations to the South African and UK variants of the disease.

The variant, thought to have originated in Brazil, is affecting travel to South America as effort is made to prevent its spread. Meanwhile, areas of Brazil are experiencing surging numbers of COVID-19 cases and oxygen supplies are running out.

pandemicImage Credit: Near D Krasaesom /

Identified in Japan

Japanese authorities notified the World Health Organization (WHO) of their concern over a new SARS-CoV-2 variant on 9 January after detecting it in airport tests from four travelers from Brazil. Whole-genome sequencing detected the variant.

The detected variant came from the B.1.1.248 lineage. Its mutations include the N501Y mutation, which it has in common with the variants reported by South Africa and the UK, and the E484K. This is the second variant detected from Brazil containing the E484K mutation.

WHO is currently working with both Japan and Brazil to evaluate the variant, determining if this variant is more severe, has higher transmission, or if it could be detrimental to current therapies, diagnostics or vaccines for the disease.

Technical consultations were scheduled to occur on the 12 and 15 January by the R&D blueprint for epidemics in which it discussed its agenda regarding evolving variants and vaccines.

Across the world, many countries are developing their own teams to monitor variants and their effect; for example, the UK launched their G2P-UK job today, a group consisting of scientists from a broad spectrum of specialties working to evaluate new variants and their potential effects on vaccines or transmissibility.

The situation in Brazil

Cases in Brazil are currently surging and hospitals are running out of space and oxygen. The situation has reached new levels in Manaus, a city in the Amazonas state, where patients have had to be transported out of their hospitals due to severe oxygen shortage. The new variant, detected by the Japanese authorities, was traced back to this region of Brazil.

There is much concern that this lack of help and supplies will result in many deaths as the situation becomes more desperate and healthcare workers send out pleas for oxygen supplies.

Why is this variant concerning?

Further research is needed to determine if this variant is going to increase negative public health concerns. At the moment there is no evidence of any variants that cause more severe illness or that render the current vaccines ineffective.

Similar to the UK and South Africa variant, the Brazilian variant appears to have mutations in its spike protein that may make it more highly transmissible. There is also concern that the South African and Brazilian variants may carry a mutation allowing them to evade some of human’s natural immune responses, although more research is needed to confirm this. If this is the case, it could reduce their response to the current vaccines.

Countries have started to enforce protective measures against the introduction of the variant, with the UK suspending arrivals from South America, Panama, Cape Verde and Portugal.

Reducing the spread

What remains important is reducing the spread of the virus as much as possible. Mutations and new variants will continue to occur as the pandemic continues. The more it spreads, the more chance it has to mutate, and the more chance a mutation will affect the current vaccines.

WHO advises all countries to increase testing the sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 viruses where possible and to share sequence data internationally, so that changes in the virus can be monitored."

World Health Organisation

WHO has encouraged countries around the world to increase genomic sequencing of the virus and to share the data, allowing for better monitoring of the evolving variants. They have advised individuals to continue to employ protective measures such as mask-wearing, physical distancing, avoiding crowds, ventilating rooms, and washing hands thoroughly and regularly.

Sophia Coveney

Written by

Sophia Coveney

Sophia is a marine biologist and scientific editor currently studying an MSc in Marine Vertebrate Ecology and Conservation at the University of Exeter. During several years of seasonal work in sea turtle conservation, Sophia developed a passion for marine conservation, particularly for everything sea turtle related. Her current research is based in a lab, using molecular genetics to look at connectivity in sea turtles. Sophia has a joint honors BSc in Biology and Psychology from Durham University.


Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:

  • APA

    Coveney, Sophia. (2021, January 15). Concern develops over Brazilian SARS-CoV-2 variant. News-Medical. Retrieved on July 21, 2024 from

  • MLA

    Coveney, Sophia. "Concern develops over Brazilian SARS-CoV-2 variant". News-Medical. 21 July 2024. <>.

  • Chicago

    Coveney, Sophia. "Concern develops over Brazilian SARS-CoV-2 variant". News-Medical. (accessed July 21, 2024).

  • Harvard

    Coveney, Sophia. 2021. Concern develops over Brazilian SARS-CoV-2 variant. News-Medical, viewed 21 July 2024,


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.

You might also like...
COVID-19 vaccination linked to reduced symptomatic child asthma