By Ahmed Rahma The World Health Organisation (WHO) in its weekly report said it has been notified by Japan about new variant of the COVID-19 in travellers from Brazil. According to the agency, it was notified on January 9 of the new variant detected in four travellers arriving from Brazil. The strain was found in two adults and two children. The report stated that the variant has 12 mutations to the spike protein, including three mutations of concern in common with VOC 202012\/01 and 501Y.V2 which may impact transmissibility and host immune response. WHO said researchers in Brazil had additionally reported the emergence of a similar variant, which had likely evolved independently of the variant detected in Japan. \u201cThe extent and public health significance of these new variants require further investigation,\u201d the report said. At a meeting of 1,750 international scientists held by the agency \u00a0on Tuesday to discuss critical knowledge gaps and research priorities for emerging variants, WHO\u2019s research and development chief, Ana Maria Henao Restrepo, said, \u201cOur collective goal is to get ahead of the game and have a global mechanism to quickly identify and study variants of concern and understand their implications for disease control efforts.\u201d WHO said the new variants showed the importance of increasing diagnostic capacity and systematic sequencing of the virus. \u201cResearch is ongoing to determine the impact of new variants on transmission, disease severity as well as any potential impacts on vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics,\u201d the organisation said. The agency also said the variant first found in Britain has now spread to 50 territories, while a similar South African-identified strain has now been found in 20 countries, adding that the wider the spread of SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes COVID-19 diseases, the more the variants should be expected. Since first being reported to the WHO on December 14, 2020, the British-identified variant VOC 202012\/01 has been found in 50 countries, territories and areas, the agency said. \u201cThe more the SARS-CoV-2 virus spreads, the more opportunities it has to change. High levels of transmission mean that we should expect more variants to emerge. \u201cTest results showed the age and sex distribution was similar to that of other circulating variants, while contact tracing data revealed \u201chigher transmissibility (secondary attack rates) where the index case has the variant strain. \u201cThe South African-identified variant 501Y.V2, first reported on December 18, has now been detected in 20 countries, territories and areas. \u201cFrom preliminary and ongoing investigations in South Africa, it is possible that the 501Y.V2 variant is more transmissible than variants circulating in South Africa previously. \u201cMoreover, while this new variant does not appear to cause more severe illness, the observed rapid increases in case numbers have placed health systems under pressure,\u201d stated the report. According to the organisation, the geographical spread of both variants is likely underestimated, given a bias towards detection in countries with virus sequencing capacity.