Finnish health authorities announced on Wednesday the discovery of a new variant of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 disease in the city of Turku (southwest of the country).
According to a press release issued by the Southwest Finland Hospital District (TYKS), this new variant "resembles the South African", although "it is not identical" and has been detected among the city's student population.
According to official information, the existence of this hitherto unknown variant has been clarified in laboratory tests carried out at the Central University Hospital of Turku.
The authorities ask for reassurance because they say that the existence of this new variant has not been shown to pose a risk of becoming more seriously ill from Covid-19.
"The symptoms of those infected have been fairly mild and the patients have not required hospitalization," TYKS said in the press release.
No viral transformation
"This may be a new variant of the coronavirus. So far, it has not been shown that this modified South African coronavirus variant is more severe than normal. For example, there are no patients with viral transformation in hospital care in TYKS", says Tytti Vuorinen, chief physician of molecular microbiology and virology at TYKS.
However, the Southwest Finland Hospital District authorities admit that the new variants are "highly susceptible to infection." This would explain why more than 90 infections have already been detected in the Turku cluster.
"We found that it is probably a modified virus, and the so-called gene sequencing ensured that the virus has several other changes in addition to those characteristic of the South African variant. So far, we don’t know where the variant came from. These will become clear later when the entire genome of the virus is known," Tytti Vuorinen says.
So far, there is no information on whether a similar modified variant has been found in other countries.