COVID-19

Japan detects new COVID-19 variant in traveler from PH

Bonz Magsambol
Japan detects new COVID-19 variant in traveler from PH
Japanese health officials say the sample was collected on February 25 'at a point of entry to Japan from a traveler from the Philippines'

Japanese health officials on Friday, March 12, said they had detected a new COVID-19 variant in a traveler from the Philippines.

In a statement posted on its website, Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID) said that the coronavirus-positive sample of the traveler from the Philippines had E484K and N501Y mutations.

The sample was collected on February 25 “at a point of entry to Japan from a traveler from the Philippines.”

Citing the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare of Japan, a Kyodo News report said the traveler is a man in his 60s and asymptomatic.

“The variant is distinct from those first discovered in Britain, South Africa and Brazil, and is thought to pose a similar level of threat,” Kyodo News said in the report.

“The potential public health impact from this variant strain shall be considered to be equivalent to those from known VOCs (variant of concerns) as this variant strain shares the same mutations of concern with VOCs,” the NIID said.

The NIID recommended “enhanced vigilance and border health measures to be implemented for this variant.”

The mutation N501Y is present in the variants first found in the United Kingdom (B117), South Africa (B1351), and Brazil (P1) – making them more transmissible than the original version of the virus.

Meanwhile, B1351 and P1 have the E484K mutation, which experts say may have an effect on vaccine efficacy.

Rappler has reached out to the Department of Health for comment, but it has yet to respond as of this posting. – Rappler.com

Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.