Two different teams of researchers said that they found a New Covid Strain in New York this week and elsewhere in the northeastern United States, that is concerning. It carries mutations that help it evade the body’s natural immune response, as well as the effects of monoclonal antibody treatments.
Genomics researchers have named the new covid strain new york B.1,526. It occurs in affected people in various neighborhoods in New York City, they said, it is “scattered in the Northeast and is dangerous and worrisome.”
One of the mutations in this new covid strain of new york is the same as the disturbing change found in the variant that was first seen in South Africa and is known as B.1,351. It also seems to evade, in a way, the body’s response to vaccines. And it is becoming more common.
“We saw a steady increase in the detection rate from late December to mid-February, with an alarming rise to 12.7% in the past two weeks,” writes a team from Columbia University Medical Center in a report that is yet to be released, although it is scheduled to appear in pre-print this week.
It is the latest in a growing number of viral variants to emerge in the United States, which has recorded more coronavirus cases (28 million) than any other country and where the spread is still intense.
It’s “homegrown, presumably in New York,” Dr. David Ho, director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center at Columbia, who led the study team, said by email.
Viruses mutate all the time. The more people are infected and the longer they are infected, the greater the chance that viruses will change. The body of a patient will be loaded with billions of copies of a virus and it is possible that it will change slightly or mutate. Most will leave as they arrived.
But sometimes a mutation or pattern of mutations takes hold and is passed on. If viruses with such patterns become more common, they are called variants and are dangerous and worrisome.
Again, it’s not unusual for variants to emerge, but if they give the virus troubling properties, such as increased transmissibility or the ability to evade treatments and vaccines, that’s when doctors start to worry.
The mutation in this variant of greatest concern to researchers is called E484K, and it gives the virus the ability to overcome part of the body’s immune response, as well as authorized monoclonal antibody treatments.
This mutation is appearing independently in many different cases, but it also appears in one particular variant: the so-called B.1,526.
“It is this novel variant that is emerging, alarmingly, in our patient population in recent weeks,” the Columbia team wrote in a copy of their report provided to Citizen Free Press.
“We found that the detection rate for this new covid strain new york is increasing in recent weeks. One concern is that it could be starting to outperform other strains, like the UK and South African variants,” Ho told Citizen Free Press.
“However, we don’t have enough data to confirm this point now.”
But the E484K mutation is seen in at least 59 different coronavirus lineages, they said, meaning it is evolving independently across the country and around the world in a phenomenon known as convergent evolution. You can give the virus an advantage.
“Everything we know about this key mutation suggests that it appears to escape the pressure of antibodies,” said Ho.
Separately, a team from the California Institute of Technology said they developed a software tool that also detected the rise of new covid strain new york B.1,526. “It appears that the frequency of the B.1,526 lineage has increased rapidly in New York,” they wrote in a preprint paper, a report that has not been peer-reviewed but has been published online.
Another variant in California
On Tuesday, two teams reported another variant that appears to be on the rise in California.
They fear that the variant is not only more dangerous, but could also cause more serious illness. As with the New York reports, his research is in its early stages, has not been published or peer-reviewed, and needs more work.
A team from the University of California, San Francisco (USCF), analyzed virus samples from recent outbreaks in California and found that it was becoming much more common. It was not seen in any sample from September, but at the end of January it was found in half of the samples.
This new covid strain new york, which the team calls B.1,427 / B.1,429, has a different pattern of mutations than the variants that were first seen in the UK, called B.1,1.7 or B.1,351. One mutation, called L452R, affects the spike protein of the virus, which is the part that attaches itself to cells that the virus infects.
“A specific mutation, the L452R mutation, in the receptor-binding domain of the spike protein may allow the virus to more efficiently couple to cells. Our data show that this is probably the key mutation that makes this variant most infectious,” Dr. Charles Chiu, associate director of UCSF’s clinical microbiology laboratory, who led one of the studies, told Citizen Free Press.
And they found some evidence that it’s more dangerous. “In this study, we observed an increased severity of disease associated with B.1,427 / B.1,429 infection, including an increased risk of high oxygen requirement,” they wrote in their report, which will be published on a prepress server later. this week after public health officials in San Francisco review it.
Chiu said it should be designated as a variant of concern and be a priority for the study.
A second team from Unidos en Salud, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that offers rapid tests in the San Francisco Mission District, screened 8,846 people during the month of January and sequenced the virus from 630 of the samples. They also found a rapid increase in variant.
“Research results indicate that the L452R variant represents 53% of the positive test samples collected between January 10 and 27. That’s a significant increase from November when our sequencing indicated that this variant comprised only 16% of positive tests,” said Dr. Diane Havlir, an infectious disease expert at USCF who is helping to lead the study, said in a statement.
Havlir’s team is also preparing the findings for publication.
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