A Dangerous New Covid-19 Variant Detected In Oregon

The SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.7 virus, first detected in the UK in late October 2020, has become the dominant strain in the UK, throughout most of Europe and India, and is now the most frequent virus isolated in the United States. The B.1.1.7 variant is more infectious than the SARS-CoV-2 strains that circulated earlier in the pandemic, is almost twice as deadly, and infects younger people and even children at a higher rate. Many speculate that the current surge of infections throughout Europe, the United States, and possibly India can be attributed, at least in part, to the increased efficiency of transmission of the B.1.1.7 virus. The hope is that the current generation of Covid-19 vaccines, all of which are based on the spike protein of the original Wuhan strain, will be effective against the B.1.1.7 strain. This hope is based on the observation that antibodies from plasma of those who receive the vaccine recognize and neutralize the B.1.1.7 virus only slightly less well than they do the original Wuhan strain. Now comes a troubling report of the discovery of a new variant from Oregon. As of yet, there are only two confirmed isolates in Oregon with this sequence, but the number of undetected cases is likely larger. The variant does not yet have an official designation. I will call it B.1.1.7-O as the variant carries all of the mutations of B.1.1.7 plus an additional six mutations of its own, one in the spike protein, three on the replication complex (ORF1ab), one in the structural protein N, and one in the accessory protein ORF8. This variant arises on the west coast as the B.1.427/9 variants have surged through California, making up over 50% of the cases sequenced. Read the full article on Forbes.
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