As the country races to vaccinate as many Americans as possible against COVID-19, both New York and California are reporting new virus variants that might be more contagious than the original strain.
NY variant may create vaccine issues
In New York, a new variant that carries a mutation that may weaken the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines has been identified as the B.1.526 variant. It was first discovered in November, and now accounts for about one in four viral sequences in a database shared by scientists, according to the New York Times.
In a paper published today from Columbia University, the authors noted a steady increase in the detection rate of B.1.526 cases from late December to mid-February, with a rise of 12.3% in the past 2 weeks.
Cases have been detected across New York City, researchers said, and threaten to once again make the city a hot spot of viral infection. They say the strain’s “unique set of spike mutations may also pose an antigenic challenge for current interventions,” such as vaccines and monoclonal antibody therapies.
California variant dominant strain in 44 counties
In California, variant B.1.427/B.1429 now makes up more than 50% of cases in 44 counties, according to the Washington Post. Researchers believe that strain is more transmissible because of a mutation that enables the virus to more easily bind to human receptor cells.
None of the studies on emerging US variants are peer reviewed, so the authors caution that more investigation is needed, and more genetic sequencing must be done throughout the country to identify any novel variants.