Anschober Provides Update on Covid-19 Mutations

Lifestyle & TravelHealth ♦ Published: January 29, 2021; 12:40 ♦ (Vindobona)

As of January 28, 2021, Austria has confirmed 149 cases of the Covid-19 mutation from the UK and three cases of the South African mutant. Through sampling of wastewater treatment plants, the mutations of the virus have also been observed in the wastewater of the Austrian population.

Austria's Health Minister Rudolf Anschober gives an update on the current situation of Covid-19 mutations in Austria. / Picture: © Bundeskanzleramt (BKA) / Dragan Tatic

At a working meeting between Austria's Health Minister Rudolf Anschober, Chief Medical Officer Katharina Reich, simulation researcher Niki Popper and Andreas Bergthaler from the Research Center for Molecular Medicine of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the current status of the spread of the new Covid-19 virus mutations was discussed.

As of January 28, 2021, a total of 149 UK variants and 3 South African variants have been confirmed in Austria by whole genome sequencing.

These numbers are compared to about 14,800 active Covid-19 cases.

Sampling of Austrian wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) indicates that the variants are not evenly distributed throughout the country.

In Viennese wastewater, for example, 17 percent of the British mutation was measured on January 11, 2021, and 71 percent in Bad Vöslau on January 12, 2021.

At the same time, no evidence of the variants could be detected in other sampled wastewater treatment plants, such as Bregenz, Klagenfurt, and Salzburg.

These figures do not provide a direct indication of the incidences in the respective catchment area of the WWTP, but they allow regional comparisons and the investigation of changes and trend developments over time.

In addition to WWTPs, other samples were sequenced.

From 256 virus-positive samples from Viennese test streets and AKH (January 13-15, 2021), the UK variant was confirmed in 40 cases (15.6 percent) and the South African variant in one case by whole-genome sequencing.

In 78 samples from the Austria-wide DINÖ system (Diagnostic Influenza Network Austria) from January 11-15, 2021, the English variant was identified five times (6.4 percent).

Further whole-genome sequencing from Burgenland revealed the English variant in 8 percent (7 of 87) and no confirmed case for any variant in the 70 samples examined from Salzburg, Vorarlberg, and Carinthia.

Health Minister Rudi Anschober states:

"The risky virus variants have arrived in Austria and are detectable. So far, however, the detected occurrence is extremely regionally variable and at the same time we still have too few time series to evaluate the spread dynamics. We also know that they are significantly more contagious. However, statements such as 54% in a wastewater treatment plant do not allow a direct conclusion on absolute numbers of infected persons, but are an indication of detection."

He promised further monitoring of the situation and the disclosure of more information as soon as possible.