The appearance of a new strain of the SARS-CoV -2 virus was discovered yesterday at the Clinical Microbiology of the Sarajevo University Clinical Center (in Bosnian: KCUS). Out of 18 tested samples, a new virus strain was confirmed in 15 citizens, and based on the data of the molecular epidemiological situation on a global level, it was estimated that it is a British strain.
According to the head of the Organizational Unit (OU) of Clinical Microbiology, prof. dr. Amela Dedeic – Ljubovic, the samples that were included in this pilot test were received on February 24th and February 25th this year in the KCUS Laboratory for Molecular Diagnostics of the Virus.
”Samples were chosen based on the high positivity for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 and from different localities. Samples were taken from the area of Canton Sarajevo (CS) from the municipalities of Stari Grad (3 samples), Centar (2 samples), Novi Grad (3 samples), Ilidza (3 samples), and Vogosca (4 samples). Samples from the Una-Sana Canton (USC) were taken in Bihac (1 sample) and Cazin (2 samples). The standard strain, which comes from Wuhan, was detected in the remaining three out of the 18 tested samples (1 from Stari Grad, Ilidza, and Vogosca), ” prof. Dedeic –Ljubovic said.
SARS-CoV-2 variants are defined by a specific assortment of mutations, many of which are of relative importance, for virus evolution, and public health as well. The director of the Diagnostic Disciplines of KCUS, prof. Dr. Sandra Vegar-Zubovic, emphasizes that, from a scientific point of view, three virus variants that are characterized by faster spread are in the focus of interest.
”These are the variant initially identified in the U.K. (B.1.1.7), the variant originating from South Africa (B.1.351), and the variant of Brazilian origin (B.1.1.28). All three mentioned variants of the virus have in common the presence of the most significant N501Y mutation that affects the receptor – the binding domain of the S viral protein. The virus binds uses its S protein to a specific cellular receptor, which allows it to penetrate a human cell during infection. The detected N501Y mutation potentially enables a stronger binding of the virus to human cell receptors. It is important to mention that all routine real-time RT-PCR tests performed in KCUS OU of Clinical Microbiology detect genes that are not involved in mutations, which allows us to detect both initial (Wuhan) and variant strains of SARS-CoV-2. This was also confirmed by this testing, ” said prof. dr. Vegar-Zubovic.
Prof. dr. Sebija Izetbegovic, the Director General of KCUS, stresses that the latest test results show that the new variants of SARS-CoV-2, which share the most significant – N501Y mutation, are largely represented and are circulating in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH).
In the last few days, there has been a significant growth in the number of Covid-19 patients, and we currently have 90 hospitalized people in the isolation ward. The capacity of the Podhrastovi isolation ward is 105 patient beds. The latest data show that in the next few days we can expect an additional increase in the number of infected. We are aware of how serious is the situation, so today we held an emergency session of the Crisis Staff of KCUS, where we made some important decisions to improve the work and existing services, ” prof. dr. Izetbegovic told yesterday.
One of yesterday’s decisions, as she added, is the formation of a respiratory center with 40 patient beds in the area of KCUS, more precisely in the former building of the Surgery.
”In this way, we will be able to expand the capacities for moderately ill patients in the Podhrastovi isolation ward, while extremely severe patients who need invasive respiratory support will be hospitalized in a new respiratory center within the KCUS. Such organization of work will make it easier for our doctors in terms of faster communication, and all of that while following the multidisciplinary approach in the treatment of coronavirus patients. We plan to complete the work on equipping the respiratory center during the weekend, so that we can move the patients, medical and diagnostic equipment at the beginning of next week, ” prof. dr. Izetbegovic stated.
According to her, the third wave of coronavirus could be the most critical so far, considering that a mutation of the virus has been spotted, which is even more contagious according to foreign media, and patients have a much more difficult clinical picture.
”In such conditions, we must think ahead and do absolutely everything in our power to protect our citizens. We are also aware of the fact that citizens are tired of masks and constant epidemiological measures, but we must be patient until the vaccine arrives. Any relaxation of measures could have unimagined consequences for the health of all of us. The KCUS staff will work selflessly and dedicatedly for the good of our patients, ” prof. dr. Izetbegović noted as it was announced from KCUS.