An expert of the University of the Philippines (UP) Manila confirmed on Monday, March 29 the detection of P.3, a variant of new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 first found in the Philippines, in eight cases in Germany, United Kingdom, Japan, and Australia.
“Meron na rin pong mga kaso na naiulat na galing po sa ibang bansa na may P.3. Isa sa Germany, isa sa Japan, apat sa UK at dalawa sa Australia. (There are also cases reported from other countries with P.3. One in Germany, one in Japan, four in the United Kingdom, and two in Australia),” Dr. Eva Maria Cutiongco-De la Paz, executive director of the UP Manila-National Institutes of Health said during a virtual Malacañang press briefing on Monday.
She said the P.3 variant found in Germany (one case), Japan (one), Australia (one), and United Kingdom (four) were traced to Central Visayas, based on the genome sequencing conducted by the UP Philippine Genome Center (PGC)
The other P.3 case in Australia was traced to the National Capital Region (NCR), she said.
“Sa ngayon sa ating bansa nakapag-sequence na po tayo ng 4,335 [samples] sa UP Philippine Genome Center. Nakita po doon na mga 9.1 percent ang pinakamadalas pa rin or most common variants of concern ay ang B.1.7 at ang B.1.351. (So far, we have sequenced 4,335 samples at the UP Philippine Genome Center. It found that about 9.1 percent of the most common variants of concern are B.1.7 and B.1.351,” she explained.
B.1.1.7 and B.1.351 variants are more commonly called “UK variant” and South African variant, respectively.
To date, Cutiongco-De la Paz said 104 samples sequenced by the PGC have P.3 variants, around 70 percent of which originated from Central Visayas, while 14.4 percent were traced to NCR.
She explained that the COVID variant first found in the Philippines contains a set of 15 mutations or signature mutations, which are designated as P.3.
“Kasama po nito ay pito pong mutations na nakaapekto na kung tawagin natin ay spike proteins na bahagi ng virus na nagtataguyod sa pagpasok ng virus sa mga host cells. (These include seven mutations that affect what we call spike proteins, which are part of the virus that promote the entry of the virus into host cells),” she further explained.
“May dalawang importanteng mutations na kasama po dito na nakikita rin sa mga ibang variants of concern, ang N501Y at E484K mutation. (There are two important mutations included here that are also seen in other variants of concern, the N501Y and E484K mutations),” she added.
Citing studies, Cutiongco-De la Paz said higher antibodies are needed to prevent infection of cells in a human body with COVID-19 if the virus contain these mutations.
“Ang atin pong P.3 ay under variant under investigation pa lang po. Ang ibig sabihin po nun kailangan pa ring aralin mas mabuti. (Our P.3 is still under variant under investigation. That means we still need to conduct further studies),” she pointed out.
Cutiongco-De la Paz said that the presence of new COVID variants in the country may not be the only factor that contributed to the spread of infections.
She said non-adherence to minimum public health standards, such as proper wearing of face mask and face shield, regular washing of hands, and physical distancing, may have been also a factor.
“Kung tama na naipapatupad ang lahat ng ito kasama ang maagang pagdetect sa mga kaso, contact tracing, na-isolate agad ang mga kaso pwede po nating putulin ang transmission. (If all of these are implemented properly, including early detection of cases, contact tracing, and isolating cases immediately, we can cut off the transmission),” she said.