The scientists found that altered attachments of carbohydrates to the SARS-CoV-2-specific antibodies - a process called glycosylation - may be to blame for this reduced transfer from mother to fetus in the third trimester.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) on Sunday, with the exception of cases in England, the new virus variant has so far been detected nine times in Denmark and once each in the Netherlands and Australia.
A total of 1108 cases infected with SARS-CoV-2 VUI 202012/01 have been detected in the United Kingdom as of 13 December 2020.
"There is no indication at this point of increased greater severity or harmfulness associated with this new variant or any challenges it shall pose to the effectiveness of the vaccines now available", the Health Ministry noted.
Is this something to be anxious about?
Although children overall have more mild disease when contracting COVID-19, infants are at higher risk for severe disease.
A mutation in the spike protein (known as N501Y) has already been reported in other countries, but not with the same combination and number of mutations, which suggests that the same mutation has evolved several times and may be important in some way.
How fast is it spreading?
The variant, seen to be 70 per cent more contagious than earlier strains of coronavirus causing Covid-19 in initial studies, has forced the United Kingdom government to go for tighter restrictions across the country and has prompted as many as 40 countries to ban travel from the UK.
Sir Patrick said the variant, which was thought to have emerged in mid-September in London or Kent, had a "significant substantial increase in transmissibility". As one of the mutations (N501Y) is in the receptor binding domain, the authorities are urgently investigating the neutralization activity of sera from recovered and vaccinated patients against this variant to determine if there is any impact on vaccine performance. This new variant or any other variant of SARS-CoV-2 will not spread if we avoid close contact, wear masks when in crowded places or where physical distancing is not possible, wash hands repeatedly, and isolate ourselves if we develop respiratory symptoms such fever, cough, or difficulty in breathing.
But it is thought this is the first strain that will be investigated in such detail by PHE.
"In fact, mutations are rarely a bad thing", Explain.
Not necessarily. They could even be less virulent.
What measures are being taken to ensure that the new mutation does not lead to a spike in cases? Preliminary analysis suggests that this particular strain is approximately 70% more transmissible.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the latest clinical advice is that it is highly unlikely that this mutation would fail to respond to a vaccine. Vaccines typically activate our immune system to produce a range of antibodies against a single viral protein, making it less likely that viruses can easily escape their attack, concur experts.
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