Japan finds new coronavirus variant in traveler from Philippines

Japan finds new coronavirus variant in traveler from Philippines

MANILA, Philippines — Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases reported Friday that it has detected a new coronavirus variant in a man in his 60s from the Philippines who arrived in the country last February 25.

The institute said the variant carries the mutations E484K, which may help the virus dodge antibodies, and N501Y, which may increase transmissibility.

It added that the variant comes from the B.1.1.28 lineage, from which the variants first identified in Brazil and the Philippines also come from.

Following the Japanese institute’s announcement, Philippine health authorities said it detected a new coronavirus variant in the country, which also carries the same mutations and comes from the same lineage.

It is not yet clear whether the variants detected by Japan and the Philippines are the same, although health authorities from both countries said that the variants they found cannot be classified as variants of concern just yet.

“We do not know how widely this variant strain is spreading within the Philippines and whether this variant strain is associated with the recent increase in reported cases in the Philippines,” the Japanese institute said.

The variant first identified in the Philippines, called P.3, has so far infected 98 people, according to the Department of Health. — Xave Gregorio

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