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Second State Identifies African Covid Variant

"The big worry is that it could evolve further and completely evade immunity, undermining vaccination efforts."

Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy – Maryland has become the second state to identify a case of B1351, a variant strain first seen in South Africa. [The other is South Carolina.]

The CDC says there are now three known cases of B1351 in the United States, 467 cases of B117, and 1 case of P.1, which was first identified in Brazil.

The patient in Maryland had no known travel history.

Coronavirus variant gets nastier as South African variant spreads

By Michael Le Page, 2 February 2021

NEW SCIENTIST – Coronavirus variants are becoming increasingly concerning as they mutate.

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Samples of the more transmissible B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant, which was first detected in the UK, have acquired a mutation that will help them evade immune protection – the same mutation already present in the B.1.351 variant in South Africa, which is now spreading worldwide.

Local transmission of the B.1.351 variant has been confirmed in the US, several European countries including the UK, Israel and much of sub-Saharan Africa.

It isn’t yet clear if B.1.351 is more transmissible, but it is certain that it can partly evade the immunity we develop from natural infection by other coronavirus variants and from vaccines.

The big worry is that it could evolve further and completely evade immunity, undermining vaccination efforts.

Lab studies have shown that a mutation called E484K helps B.1.351 to evade antibodies. This same mutation has now been found in 11 B.1.1.7 viruses, according to a UK government document. It doesn’t say when or where these viruses were found.

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Ravindra Gupta at the University of Cambridge and his colleagues have already confirmed that this new B.1.1.7 plus E484K variant is better at evading immune protection.

In other words, this is a faster-spreading virus that is also better at evading immunity. If it isn’t stopped, it could outcompete the older B.1.1.7 variant, which has already spread to many countries worldwide.

B.1.351 is also going global despite efforts to halt its spread. On 1 February, the UK announced that it had identified 11 cases of B.1.351 that couldn’t be linked to travel, meaning it is spreading within the local community.

The UK government has begun testing people in eight areas of England, regardless of symptoms, in an effort to find and eliminate the variant … Read more.

How many variants of the coronavirus are there?

By MARION RENAULT, Associated Press, Jan 28, 2021

There are many circulating around the world, but health experts are primarily concerned with the emergence of three.

As a virus infects people, it can mutate as it makes copies of itself. Some mutations can be harmful to a virus, causing it to die out. Others can offer an advantage and help it spread.

“Not every mutation is created equal,” said Mary Petrone, who studies infectious diseases at Yale University. “The virus is going to get lucky now and again.”

Monitoring variants is important because of the possibility that they could make vaccines and treatments less effective, or change the way they infect people.

A mutation early in the pandemic fueled the spread of the virus around the world, but there had been no notable changes since — until recently, said Ohio State University biologist Daniel Jones.

One of the three main variants experts are watching was discovered in the United Kingdom late last year and has been detected in dozens of countries since.

Health officials initially said it didn’t seem to cause worse disease, but some newer information suggests it might — that remains unknown at the moment. It does appear to spread more easily, which could lead to more hospitalizations and deaths.

The variant might become dominant in the U.S. by March, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Other variants first detected in South Africa and in Brazil also appear more contagious, experts say.

Data so far suggests current vaccines should still protect against these variants, though there’s some concern their effectiveness may be slightly diminished.

There is some evidence that some antibody treatments may be less effective against certain variants.

There are ways to adjust vaccines and treatments to maintain their effectiveness, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert.

The emergence of variants is linked to ongoing surges since infections give viruses the chance to mutate and spread. It’s another reason experts stress the importance of mask-wearing and social distancing.

“The fewer humans carrying the virus, the fewer opportunities it has to mutate,” Jones said.

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