Press release K2021/007 from

A mutant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has been detected in Leipzig for the first time. The virus strain detected at the Institute of Virology and Microbiology at Leipzig University Hospital (UKL) is the variant of the virus that is widespread in South Africa. It was detected in a person treated as an outpatient at UKL.

The case was detected during routine screening of all patients. The virus found is very likely to be a strain of the B.1.351 clade. This virus variant is particularly common in South Africa and carries, among other mutations, E484K and N501Y in its spike protein. This is the first case of the virus variant being detected in Leipzig but also the whole of Saxony.

Of the approximately 4000 tests performed here every week, the Institute of Virology at UKL has been examining all positive samples it receives from the hospital for evidence of a mutation. If such evidence is detected, then a further, more detailed examination of the samples in question is carried out by targeted sequencing of partial sections of the genetic information of the virus. In this way, more than 600 samples that had already tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 have already been examined more closely at the UKL institute, but so far no mutation has been found in any other case. “Work is in progress on the complete sequencing of the viral genome of the viral variant that has now been detected. In the future, this complex examination will also be carried out on a random basis for other coronaviruses detected at UKL. Preparations for this are currently under way,” said Dr Corinna Pietsch, acting head of virology at UKL.

In the case of the virus variant that has now been identified, it must now be clarified, among other things, whether other contact persons are also infected with the mutated virus. “Data from other countries indicate that this variant of the virus is more contagious and therefore, unfortunately, ultimately more dangerous to the population because more people become infected and fall ill,” said Dr Pietsch. “In addition, there is preliminary evidence that the efficacy of the vaccines may be compromised.”

In the current situation, it is especially important to prevent a further increase in the number of infections. Currently, 305 COVID-19 patients are being treated in Leipzig hospitals, 104 of them at UKL. A total of 468 patients have been treated for COVID disease at UKL since March 2020, 143 of whom have died.