Covid-19: should we fear the Brazilian variant?

The Covid-19 epidemic continues its mad race in Brazil. More than 4,000 people die every day, and hospitals are filling up with younger and younger patients. A study by the Brazilian Association of Intensive Care (AMIB), published Sunday, April 11, determined that the majority of patients admitted to intensive care and suffering from a Covid-19 infection in March were now under 40 years of age . That is 52.2% of hospitalized patients (11,000 people), against 14.6% last year and 45% between September and February.

The patients are younger and without comorbidities, but they have a more serious infection, Brazilian doctors report. The management of the epidemic, almost non-existent in Brazil, and the important vaccination in the over 80s only partially explain this deterioration in the youngest. The fault lies above all with the Brazilian variant known as “P1”.

→ REPORT. Covid-19: in Manaus, the ravages of the “Amazonian variant”

It was detected for the first time at the end of 2020 in Manaus (Amazonia). After a devastating first wave, the city believed it had achieved collective immunity. At the beginning of January, the new variant once again decimated some of the inhabitants. “P1” then quickly spread throughout the country and to its neighbors in Latin America – French Guyana included.

Young people on the front line

The “P1” is blacklisted by the World Health Organization (WHO) alongside the British and South African variants. More contagious, more virulent and capable of reinfecting an immune person by way of cure or vaccine, the “P1” has everything to worry about. Chile, yet massively vaccinated, once again sees the number of cases skyrocket with the arrival of this variant (and the weak immunity offered by the Chinese vaccine).

Should young people fear the Brazilian variant? The virologist and member of the Scientific Council Bruno Lina tempers: “In Brazil, people under 40 represent a significant segment of the population and the spread of the virus in this age group is not surprising. “

By communicating silt effect, wherever the vaccination campaign is progressing among seniors, there is a decrease in the age of patients in intensive care. Young people are more exposed to the virus and the share of this age group in intensive care is increasing. The AMIB study nonetheless reveals an increase in the number of patients hospitalized without having had other illnesses to almost a third of the total (30.3%).

What threat to the rest of the world?

“The only studies we have on this variant are Brazilian and Brazil does not have an English variant”, also notes Philippe Froguel, geneticist at Lille University Hospital and Imperial College London. Difficult, therefore, to compare the two strains and their contagiousness. But for Bruno Lina, the “P1” variant does not represent an immediate danger for Europe. Already present in France and in other European countries, “It disappears against the British variant because it has a transmissibility only 20 to 30% higher than the original virus, against 60% for the British”, he assures.

→ READ. United Kingdom: Is the Brazilian variant a threat?

Still, the Brazilian variant worries beyond its borders. In British Columbia (Canada), the number of cases associated with “P1” exploded in a few weeks (over 900). 200 contaminations have been identified for the city of Whistler alone, a ski resort usually very busy, which has in fact become the biggest focus of the variant outside Brazil.

Some 92 different strains of the virus are currently circulating in Brazil. Left to its own devices, the country could become a “Threat to humanity”, warn scientists. Because the more the virus circulates, the more it multiplies. And the more the risk of seeing the emergence of new dangerous variants increases.


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