Academic shines light on Melbourne Covid outbreak variant

An Australian professor has shed light on the Covid-19 strain that is wreaking havoc on Victoria.

UNSW associate professor Stuart Turville said the Indian species, as it has come to be known, was one of three that had spread across the continent.

“That was the first one that blew up or started expanding in India and has spread around the world,” he said.

Professor Turville said the second variant, which had now found acceptance in India, was “fitter” and more immune evasive.

“In places like India, where there is a large population and vaccination rates are low… it can really accelerate,” he said.

Despite their differences, it was important to treat each of the variants the same until the medical data sets improved, Professor Turville said.

He said there had been many species that had “gone nowhere”.

“There have been thousands of variants, only we see only the variants that persist — the fitter ones,” he said.

“We’re learning in real time and I think we have to be careful not to get too caught up in them and not get too scared of them.”

Professor Turville said there were about one or two changes to the Covid genome per month by 2020.

That turnover rate has risen sharply this year.

“We see more changes when the infection becomes more chronic,” he said.


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