Worrying New Coronavirus Variant Found In New York
Two separate teams of researchers said this week they have found a worrying new coronavirus variant in New York City and elsewhere in the Northeast that carries mutations that help it evade the body’s natural immune response — as well as the effects of monoclonal antibody treatments.
According to a CNN story reported on by WHDH/7 News Boston, genomics researchers have named the variant B.1.526. It appears in people affected in diverse neighborhoods of New York City, they said, and is “scattered in the Northeast.”
One of the mutations in this variant is the same concerning change found in the variant first seen in South Africa and known as B.1.351. It appears to evade, somewhat, the body’s response to vaccines, as well. And it’s becoming more common.
It’s the latest of a growing number of viral variants that have arisen in the US, which has had more coronavirus cases — 28 million — than any other country and where spread is still intense.
Viruses mutate all the time. The more people who are infected, and the longer they are infected, the more chance the viruses have to change. A patient’s body will be loaded with billions of copies of a virus and many will be slightly changed or mutated. Most will come and go.
But sometimes a mutation or pattern of mutations takes hold and gets passed along. If viruses with such patterns become more common, they’re called variants. Again, it’s not unusual for variants to arise but if they give the virus worrying properties, such as better transmissibility or the ability to evade treatments and vaccines, that’s when doctors start to worry.
The mutation in this variant that most concerns researchers is called E484K and it gives the virus the ability to slip past some of the body’s immune response, as well as the authorized monoclonal antibody treatments. This mutation is popping up independently in many different cases but appears in one particular variant, as well — the one called B.1.526.
For much more information on this story, including details on another variant of the coronavirus on the rise in California, please visit WHDH/7 News' website here.
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