New Variant of COVID-19 Floating in New York Metropolis, Scientists Say | Well being information
By SONY SALZMAN, ABC News
(NEW YORK) – Scientists are currently investigating a new home-grown variant of COVID-19 that has been identified and is circulating in the New York City area.
The variant, which scientists call B.1.526, was identified separately by two research groups. Researchers at the California Institute of Technology and Columbia University released their separate findings this week before going through a formal scientific peer review process.
When analyzing over 1,100 samples for mutations in the variants of South Africa and Brazil, the Columbia researchers did not find a high number of these specific variants.
“Instead, we found large numbers of these native lines,” said Dr. Anne-Catrin Uhlemann, associate professor of medicine in the Infectious Diseases Department at Columbia University, in a statement.
So far, researchers from Colombia have reportedly identified at least 80 cases of the new variant in the three-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, indicating that the variant is not limited to a single outbreak.
Looking back at a database of COVID-19 gene samples, the researchers found traces of B.1.526 from November. According to the CalTech study, this new variant made up approximately 25% of New York’s coronavirus genomes, which were sequenced and placed in the variant database in February.
Scientists say they are seeing more cases of the variant now than months ago, but it’s not yet clear whether this variant is more transmissible.
Although it has a mutation that is common to the variants native to South Africa and Brazil, the B.1.526 variant is unique and needs further study to understand its effect on transmissibility, lethality, or the vaccine.
Researchers from Colombia said they plan to step up their efforts to track this new variant by sequencing 100 samples a day.
“If we increase our effort for genome sequencing, we can better understand the effects of the new variant and keep our eyes open for new variants that could appear in our region,” said Uhlemann.
According to the COVID Tracking Project, New York City has one of the highest case rates per 100,000 people in the country in the past seven days.
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