The “Belgian variant” is in fact native to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The strain of the virus, called B.1.214, was identified in April 2020 in Africa. It has since circulated in at least 17 countries, including Belgium, Switzerland, Denmark and France.

The announcement of the discovery of a new variant of Sars-CoV-2 in Belgium was a little too quick. Because according to our information, this new strain was, in fact, first appeared in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a former Belgian colony. Then in the suburbs of Brazzaville, in the Republic of Congo, several months ago.

The department of medical genetics of the University Hospital of Liège, however, affirmed that one of its scientists was the first to have identified this variant. ” VS‘is our researcher Keith Durkin who identified this variant as part of the national virus genomic surveillance program which was launched in late December in our country “, Had indicated Sunday in the daily The evening Vincent Bours, head of the Sars-Cov-2 analysis and sequencing laboratory at the University of Liège.

But the international Gisaid database, the most comprehensive in the world which brings together 842,000 sequences of the coronavirus, allows us to discover a slightly different story. By extracting the data, it is possible to affirm that if this variant called B.1.214 is mainly present in Belgium, then in at least 16 other countries, in particular Switzerland, Denmark and France, it has been spotted on samples. dating from April 2020 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, then in the Republic of the Congo! That is three months before the retrospective discovery of the same variant in Belgium, found in June 2020, on old samples.

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A collaboration between Europe and the Congo

Part of the discovery in Africa is to the credit of researchers from the University of Tübingen, Germany, in connection with scientists from Brazzaville (Congo). “We are the ones who confirmed the origin of this variant from samples collected in November and December in the Republic of Congo. The results were communicated to the group’s journal Nature, Scientific Reports, specifies at Figaro, Prof. Thirumalaisamy P. Velavan at the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Tübingen. Research also detailed by this team in a scientific article published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, posted on March 15, 2021, and entitled (in French): “the surveillance of Sars-CoV-2 in the Republic of Congo”. Through retrospective research, they found samples containing this variant dating back to April 2020. And a member of his team says that “According to the GISAID database, I confirm that the first sequences of the B.1.214 line were reported by another team in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) / Kinshasa and not by Belgium”.

Asked about the African origin of the variant “discovered” in Belgium, Vincent Bours simply sent an article, taken from the Gisaid database, which describes the mutations of the variant with the code name B.1.214 in January 2021, when Gisaid had two times fewer references. What happened ? The situation is not clear, but it is possible that by the time the Belgian team sent its results to the international Gisaid base in January, German and African researchers had not yet submitted their analyzes.

The only certainty (and good news), this variant does not carry the most disturbing mutations that characterize the so-called worry variants, which are the English, South African and Brazilian variants. According to the latest information available, the weight of the “Belgian” variant in the new contaminations of the population in Belgium is equivalent to the South African and Brazilian variants, which nevertheless appeared later. And therefore should not be more contagious, nor have an increased character of “severity” …


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