After the UK, Brazilian, and even South African variants, is a new variant breaking out in France? This Monday March 15, 2021, the French Health General Management (DGS) stated a new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus mutation has been found in Brittany. Since then, the domestic authorities have decided to list this “Breton variant” in the “to be surveilled” category. For the record, this category gathers thousands of variants surging in a natural fashion around the world, and only a small proportion of which will eventually cause public health-related issues.
What do we know about this “Breton variant” exactly? So far, this new mutation has raised many questions. The DGS also announced that investigations were currently going on in order to “assess its transmissibility and seriousness”.
At this stage, we know a cluster has been identified this past February 22 in Lannion hospital, Côtes-d’Armor. After in-depth analyses, 79 cases have been identified as of March 13, including 8 cases carrying the “Breton variant”. These cases have been confirmed after sequencing performed by Institut Pasteur that revealed “a new variant […] carrying nine mutations in the area coding for S protein, as well as in other viral regions”, the DGS stated in a message sent to health professionals.
The particularity? People carrying the variant show Covid-19 symptoms, but their PCR tests ended up negative. “An assessment is going on in order to assess the likely impact of the genetic modifications on a failure in virological tests to recognize the virus leading to under-diagnosis”, the DGS stated.
So far, we still ignore the level of danger of this “Breton variant”, but investigations are being carried out. Yet, according to health authorities, “the first analyses of this new variant do not enable to conclude on increased seriousness or transmissibility compared to the historic virus”.