The Ministry of Health and Wellness has confirmed the British variant of SARS-CoV-2 has been identified in Saint Lucia. The report states, “Two of the cases are British nationals who were diagnosed on December 17th and December 23rd, 2020. The other three cases are St. Lucian nationals from the Dennery, Micoud and Babonneau districts and they were also diagnosed in December 2020. All five cases have since made a full recovery from the COVID-19 virus.”
According to the World Health Organization:
The variant is defined by the presence of a range of 14 mutations resulting in amino acid changes and three deletions. Some of these mutations may influence the transmissibility of the virus in humans:
- One of the mutations identified (N501Y) is altering an amino acid within the six key residues in the receptor binding domain (RBD). According to the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data (GISAID) database, this same receptor binding domain mutation (N501Y) has been independently reported in several countries including South Africa (n=45) and Australia (n=37). Sequence analysis revealed that N501Y mutation of the virus reported in the United Kingdom and South Africa originated separately.
- Another mutation of biological significance, P681H, has been found in the RBD.
- Finally, the deletion at position 69/70 has been found to affect the performance of some diagnostic PCR assays that use an S gene target. Most PCR assays worldwide use multiple targets and therefore the impact of the variant on diagnostics is not anticipated to be significant.
Preliminary reports by the United Kingdom are that this variant is more transmissible than previous circulating viruses, with an estimated increase of between 40% and 70% in transmissibility (adding 0.4 to the basic reproduction number R0, bringing it to a range of 1.5 to 1.7). Laboratory studies are ongoing to determine whether these variant viruses have different biological properties or alter vaccine efficacy. There is not enough information at present to determine if this variant is associated with any change in severity of clinical disease, antibody response or vaccine efficacy.
Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica have also reported cases of the British variant.Saint Lucia confirms SARS-CoV-2 British variant in country