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Seven fully vaccinated residents of a nursing home in Belgium have died after being infected by a Covid-19 mutation first detected in Colombia, the virology team that conducted tests on the virus said on Friday.
They had all been infected with the B.1.621 mutation, which the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control had listed as part of the Kappa variant.
B.1.621 cases have been detected in the US in recent weeks but the variant's presence in Europe is rare, with the Delta and Alpha variants dominating. In Belgium, it currently accounts for less than 1 per cent of known cases.
The seven people who died at the nursing home in the Belgian town of Zaventem, near Brussels, were all in their 80s or 90s, and some of them were already in poor physical condition, said Marc Van Ranst, a virologist at the University of Leuven, which carried out the tests on the virus found at the nursing home.
Despite their frailty, Mr Van Ranst said their deaths were “worrisome” as they were all fully vaccinated.
He is unsure if the B.1.621 mutation is more transmissible than other coronavirus mutations or variants.
Twenty-one Zaventum nursing home residents were infected in the outbreak, along with several members of staff who only experienced mild symptoms, Mr Van Ranst told Reuters.
Additional tests will be run to rule out any possibility that the nursing home residents died from a different variant or mutation of the virus, or a different respiratory disease. Mr Van Ranst said these outcomes were “unlikely but not impossible".