Japan Discovers New Coronavirus Variant

Japan discovers new coronavirus variant in travellers returning from Brazil
The international arrival lobby at Haneda Airport in Tokyo. Source: KYODO

According to a press release, Japan has discovered a new coronavirus variant in travelers returning from Brazil.

On January 7, Japan’s Prime Minister placed Tokyo under a one-month state of emergency. The decision comes as a result of a rise in the number of coronavirus cases across the capital and the country. To date, Japan has recorded a total of 292,212 coronavirus cases and over 4,000 deaths. Now, in the midst of rising infections, Japan has discovered a new coronavirus variant.

In a statement released Sunday, Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID) reported finding a new strain in four travelers returning from Brazil. The NIID has informed the World Health Organization (WHO) of the discovery.

The more the virus spreads, the higher the chance of new changes to the virus

WHO’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

Similar to UK and South African Variant

According to the press statement, the four travelers had tested positive at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport on January 2. Doctors then carried out a detailed examination that detected the new variant. All four had traveled back from Brazil’s Amazonas state. One of the travelers, a man in his 40s, presented as asymptomatic but later on developed breathing problems that required hospitalization. Whereas the rest of them either had mild or no symptoms.

In regard to the mutant strain, the NIID reported that it has 12 mutations in its spike protein. Furthermore, one of these mutations is similar to the one present in UK and South African variants. Thus, raising concern about the variant’s increased transmissibility. This could potentially result in increased infections and fatalities.

At the moment, there is no proof showing the new variant found in those from Brazil is high in infectiousness

Takaji Wakita, head of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID)

However, researchers believe information about Japan’s variant is limited by its genetic composition. Moreover, it is too early to determine the strain’s infectivity or its susceptibility to the current vaccines. The NIID is currently carrying out studies to investigate the new variant further.


About the Outbreak of Patients with New Coronavirus Infection (Mutant Strain). 10 Jan. 2021, www.mhlw.go.jp/stf/newpage_15969.html.


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