A version of the Coronavirus Delta variant, this new variant was collected from a patient swab in Jakarta.
This variant reportedly has 113 unique mutations compared to the deadly Omicron variant which carried around 50.
Thirty-seven of these mutations affect the virus’ spike protein, found on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes Covid-19.
The spike protein is responsible for helping the virus attach to and enter human cells. This is also the target of many Covid-19 vaccines, which work by teaching the body’s immune system to recognise and attack the spike protein.
While this could be the ‘most extreme’ variant we’ve encountered, it only becomes concerning if it spreads rapidly.
Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist at Warwick University, told the MailOnline it was unclear if the newly-discovered strain had any potential to go on and infect others.
He added that it would need to beat other variants in circulation, like Omicron descendants, to become established.
The new virus is believed to have originated from a case of chronic infection where a single patient, instead of beating the virus in a few weeks suffered an extended infection for months.
These chronic infections usually occur in patients with a compromised immune system, such as patients with AIDS or cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, weakening their able to successfully fight off the virus.
Professor Ian Jones, a virologist at the University of Reading, told the MailOnline the new variant was ‘unusually mutated’.
While Covid mutates all the time, he said chronic infections had increased potential to encourage it to better adapt to infiltrate the human immune system.
‘The concern over chronic infections is that the virus is mutating in an individual who has already generated immunity,’ he added.
The new variant was submitted to a global Covid genomics database at the start of July.
According to Professor Young, the biggest fear is of new variants like this one emerging quietly.
‘This virus continues to surprise us and being complacent is dangerous. As the virus spreads and continues to mutate, it will inevitably result in serious infections in the most vulnerable and it will also increase those suffering the burden of the long-term consequences of infection.’
Share your views in the comments below