4 coronavirus variants can make people sicker or spread faster, including the variant first found in India. Here’s what variants are, and why experts are so concerned about them.

people wearing masks coronavirus US
People wearing masks in Del Mar, California.

  • There are four coronavirus variants that experts around the world are particularly worried about.
  • These variants were first identified in South Africa, the UK, Brazil, and India respectively.
  • Others coronavirus variants have concerning features, but it’s not yet clear they’re more dangerous.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Several coronavirus variants have evolved mutations that mean they spread more easily, make people sicker, escape immune responses, evade tests, or render treatments ineffective.

These are called “variants of concern” by the World Health Organization, and there are four that have spread to the US, including the variant first found in India.

There are various other variants that may have troubling features, which experts are looking into. These are called “variants under investigation.”

They differ from the original virus strain in a number of key ways.

Variants of concern

Alpha (B.1.1.7, first found in the UK)

coronavirus hospital UK
A nurse works on a patient in the ICU in London hospital, UK on January 7, 2020.

Alpha was first detected in two people in south-east England. It was reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) on December 14.

It has been identified in 136 countries worldwide, including the US, where there are more than 20,000 reported cases, according to the CDC. It became the most common variant in the US on April 7. Tennessee has the highest proportion of Alpha cases of any state, accounting for 82% of sequenced cases.

Alpha is between 30% to 50% better at spreading from person to person than other coronavirus variants, according to UK scientists.

Alpha could be more deadly, but we don’t know for sure

Alpha could be more deadly. The UK government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) reported a model on January 21 that showed someone infected with Alpha is 30% to 40% more likely to die than someone with a different variant.

Community-based studies in England, Scotland and Denmark showed that infection with Alpha in the community causes a higher risk of severe disease requiring hospital treatment and death.

But there is a lot of uncertainty around the numbers. Two studies published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases and the Lancet Public Health on April 13 indicated that Alpha was more infectious, but didn’t cause worse illness in hospitalized patients.

COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca all appear to protect against Alpha.

Beta (B.1.351, first identified in South Africa)

COVID-19, South Africa
Health worker Vuyiseka Mathambo takes a nasal swab from a patient to test for COVID-19 at a Masiphumelele community centre in Cape Town, South Africa on July 23, 2020.

Beta was first detected in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa, in samples dating back to the beginning of October 2020. It was reported to the WHO on December 18.

It has been found in 92 countries, including the US, where there are 453 cases reported across 36 states and jurisdictions according to the CDC

Beta is thought to be 50% more contagious than the original strain, according to South African health officials.

It’s not thought to be more deadly. But there is evidence from South Africa that when hospitals came under pressure because of the variant’s spread, the risk of death increased.

Beta may evade the body’s immune response

The variant may evade the body’s immune response, data suggests. Antibodies work best when they attach snugly to the virus and stop it from entering our cells. Beta has mutations called E484K and K417N at the site where antibodies latch on. In early lab tests, antibodies produced by Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines couldn’t attach as well to Beta, compared to the original coronavirus.

In a real-world Qatari study reported on May 6, Pfizer’s vaccine was 75% effective at preventing infection of varying severity caused by Beta after two doses.

And another real-world study from Israel published on April 10 suggested that Pfizer’s vaccine provided less protection against Beta than the original coronavirus. But it was focused on those who have already tested positive for the virus, not total infection rates, so we can’t draw firm conclusions.

Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine was 64% effective at preventing COVID-19 in trials in South Africa, where 95% infections are caused by Beta, and 72% effective in the US, where Beta accounts for less than 1% of sequenced coronavirus tests.

AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine didn’t prevent mild to moderate disease caused by Beta in a trial, and we don’t yet know if AstraZeneca’s shot still protects against severe illness caused by the variant.

It is unlikely that vaccines will become completely useless against the variant. Existing vaccines could be updated and tailored to a new variant within weeks or months, or you may require a booster shot.

Gamma (P.1, first identified in Brazil)

brazil coronavirus
A COVID-19 patient is rushed into a hospital in Brasilia, Brazil on January 11, 2021.

Gamma was first detected in four people in Japan, who had traveled from Brazil on January 2. It was identified by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases on January 6, and reported to the WHO that weekend.

It has been found in 51 countries worldwide, including the US, where there have been 497 cases in 31 states, according to the CDC

Gamma is twice as contagious as the original coronavirus – it was initially detected in Amazonas, north-west Brazil, on December 4, and by January 21, 91% of people with COVID-19 in the region were infected with P.1, according to the WHO.

Gamma has similar E484K and K417T mutations as B.1.351, which means it can evade antibody responses.

This could be the reason Gamma reinfects people who have already caught coronavirus – a study published April 14 showed that previous coronavirus infection only offered between 54% and 79% of the protection for P.1 than for other virus strains.

Gamma’s mutations could also mean that vaccines work less well.

COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and AstraZeneca probably work against Gamma. Moderna’s hasn’t been tested. Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine was 68% effective in trials in Brazil, where the variant is the most common strain, compared with its 72% efficacy in the US, where Gamma at the time accounted for 0.1% of sequenced coronavirus tests.

Delta (B.1.617.2, first identified in India)

india coronavirus
Mumbai Police personnel are tested for the coronavirus on October 15, 2020.

Delta is more infectious than the original virus – it’s as least as contagious as Alpha, according to UK data.

Delta remains a “variant of interest,” according to the CDC.

Its mutations include:

  • L452R: May make the virus more infectious or it may avoid the antibody response.
  • P681R: May make it more infectious.

Real-world data from the UK found that both AstraZeneca’s and Pfizer’s vaccines were highly effective against symptomatic COVID-19 caused by Delta when two doses were given. We don’t have enough data on how well COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna or Johnson&Johnson protect against Delta.

No studies to date have found that Delta is deadlier than earlier versions of the virus.

Variants of interest

Epsilon (B.1.427/B.1.429, first identified in California)

pfizer covid 19 vaccine distribution
Medical assistant April Massaro gives a first dose of Pfizer BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine to nurse Alice Fallago at Desert Valley Hospital on Thursday, December 17, 2020 in Victorville, California.

Epsilon consists of two slightly different mutated forms of the virus, called B.1.427 and B.1.429. It is also called CAL.20C, using another naming system. It was first found in California in July and has now been detected across the US and elsewhere, including in Australia, Denmark, Mexico, and Taiwan, according to the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data (GISAID).

Epsilon is estimated to be about 20% more infectious than the original coronavirus. This is likely because of a mutation called L452R mutation, which in early lab studies was shown to help the virus infect cells.

COVID-19 vaccines haven’t yet been tested against this variant specifically. But early lab experiments showed that antibodies produced by previous COVID-19 infections worked only half as well against the variant as they did with the original coronavirus strain.

The CDC considers Epsilon a “variant of concern”, which means the CDC experts consider that there’s enough evidence that its mutations change its behavior. It remains a “variant under investigation” according to the WHO.

Read more:Experts explain why the mRNA tech that revolutionized COVID-19 vaccines could be the answer to incurable diseases, heart attacks, and even snake bites: ‘The possibilities are endless’

Zeta (P.2, first identified in Brazil)

Zeta was first detected in Brazil in April 2020. It’s a “variant of interest” because it has the E484K mutation that may mean it evades antibody responses. Less than 0.1% of sequenced coronavirus tests in the US are Zeta, according to the CDC.

Eta (B.1.525, identified in multiple countries)

covid scientist lab coronavirus testing samples
Scientists work in a lab testing COVID-19 samples at New York City’s health department, April 23, 2020.

Eta was detected in multiple places including the UK, Nigeria and New York in December 2020. It has the E484K mutation that may mean it evades the antibody response. Eta accounts for 0.3% of sequenced coronavirus tests in the US, according to the CDC.

Theta (P.3, first identified in the Philippines)

Theta was first detected in the Philippines in February. Theta has the E484K mutation that may mean it evades the immune response. Theta hasn’t yet been detected in the US.

Iota (B.1.526, first identified in New York)

Iota was detected in New York in November 2020. It’s a “variants of interest” because it has mutations that may mean it can escape antibody responses. B.1.526 accounts for less than 8% of sequenced coronavirus tests in the US, according to the CDC.

Kappa (B.1.617.1, first found in India)

Kappa was first found in India in October 2020. It may have mutations that mean it can evade tests. It accounts for less than 0.1% of sequenced coronavirus cases in the US, according to the CDC.

Human behavior can help stop them spreading

AOC Elbow bump Houston Food Bank February 20201.JPG
Ocasio-Cortez elbow bumps a volunteer at the Houston Food Bank.

The WHO has said that everyone should double down on precautions that stop the spread of variants, such as social distancing, hand-washing, mask wearing, and avoiding crowds.

“Human behavior has a very large effect on transmission – probably much larger than any biological differences in SARS-CoV-2 variants,” Paul Bieniasz, a virologist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, told Insider.

Read the original article on Business Insider

4 coronavirus variants can make people sicker or spread faster, including the variant first found in India. Here’s why experts are so concerned about mutant strains.

people wearing masks coronavirus US
People wearing masks in Del Mar, California.

  • There are four coronavirus variants that experts around the world are particularly worried about.
  • These variants were first identified in South Africa, the UK, Brazil, and India respectively.
  • Others coronavirus variants have concerning features, but it’s not yet clear they’re more dangerous.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Several coronavirus variants have evolved mutations that mean they spread more easily, make people sicker, escape immune responses, evade tests, or render treatments ineffective.

These are called “variants of concern” by the World Health Organization, and there are four that have spread to the US, including the variant first found in India.

There are various other variants that may have troubling features, which experts are looking into. These are called “variants under investigation.”

They differ from the original virus strain in a number of key ways.

Variants of concern

B.1.1.7, first found in the UK

coronavirus hospital UK
A nurse works on a patient in the ICU in London hospital, UK on January 7, 2020.

B.1.1.7 was first detected in two people in south-east England. It was reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) on December 14.

It has been identified in 123 countries worldwide, including the US, where there are more than 20,000 reported cases, according to the CDC. It became the most common variant in the US on April 7. Tennessee has the highest proportion of B.1.1.7 cases of any state, accounting for 73% of sequenced cases.

B.1.1.7 is between 30% to 50% better at spreading from person to person than other coronavirus variants, according to UK scientists.

B.1.1.7 could be more deadly, but we don’t know for sure

B.1.1.7 could be more deadly. The UK government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) reported a model on January 21 that showed someone infected with B.1.1.7 is 30% to 40% more likely to die than someone with a different variant.

Community-based studies in England, Scotland and Denmark showed that infection with B.1.1.7 in the community causes a higher risk of severe disease requiring hospital treatment and death.

But there is a lot of uncertainty around the numbers. Two studies published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases and the Lancet Public Health on April 13 indicated that B.1.1.7 was more infectious, but didn’t cause worse illness in hospitalized patients.

COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca all appear to protect against B.1.1.7.

B.1.351, first identified in South Africa

COVID-19, South Africa
Health worker Vuyiseka Mathambo takes a nasal swab from a patient to test for COVID-19 at a Masiphumelele community centre in Cape Town, South Africa on July 23, 2020.

B.1.351 was first detected in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa, in samples dating back to the beginning of October 2020. It was reported to the WHO on December 18.

It has been found in 84 countries, including the US, where there are 453 cases reported across 36 states and jurisdictions according to the CDC

B.1.351 is thought to be 50% more contagious than the original strain, according to South African health officials.

It’s not thought to be more deadly. But there is evidence from South Africa that when hospitals came under pressure because of the variant’s spread, the risk of death increased.

B.1.351 may evade the body’s immune response

The variant may evade the body’s immune response, data suggests. Antibodies work best when they attach snugly to the virus and stop it from entering our cells. The B.1.351 variant has mutations called E484K and K417N at the site where antibodies latch on. In early lab tests, antibodies produced by Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines couldn’t attach as well to B.1.351, compared to the original coronavirus.

In a real-world Qatari study reported on May 6, Pfizer’s vaccine was 75% effective at preventing infection of varying severity caused by the variant first found in South Africa, called B.1.351, after two doses.

And another real-world study from Israel published on April 10 suggested that Pfizer’s vaccine provided less protection against B.1.351 than the original coronavirus. But it was focused on those who have already tested positive for the virus, not total infection rates, so we can’t draw firm conclusions.

Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine was 64% effective at preventing COVID-19 in trials in South Africa, where 95% infections are caused by B.1.351, and 72% effective in the US, where B.1.351 accounts for less than 1% of sequenced coronavirus tests.

AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine didn’t prevent mild to moderate disease caused by B.1.351 in a trial, and we don’t yet know if AstraZeneca’s shot still protects against severe illness caused by the variant.

It is unlikely that vaccines will become completely useless against the variant. Existing vaccines could be updated and tailored to a new variant within weeks or months, or you may require a booster shot.

P.1, first identified in Brazil, which is twice as contagious

brazil coronavirus
A COVID-19 patient is rushed into a hospital in Brasilia, Brazil on January 11, 2021.

The variant found in Brazil was first detected in four people in Japan, who had traveled from Brazil on January 2. It was identified by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases on January 6, and reported to the WHO that weekend.

It has been found in 45 countries worldwide, including the US, where there have been 497 cases in 31 states, according to the CDC

P.1 is twice as contagious as the original coronavirus – it was initially detected in Amazonas, north-west Brazil, on December 4, and by January 21, 91% of people with COVID-19 in the region were infected with P.1, according to the WHO.

P.1 has similar E484K and K417T mutations as B.1.351, which means it can evade antibody responses.

This could be the reason P.1 reinfects people who have already caught coronavirus – a study published April 14 showed that previous coronavirus infection only offered between 54% and 79% of the protection for P.1 than for other virus strains.

P.1’s mutations could also mean that vaccines work less well.

COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and AstraZeneca work against P.1. Moderna’s hasn’t been tested. Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine was 68% effective in trials in Brazil, where the variant is the most common strain, compared with its 72% efficacy in the US, where P.1 at the time accounted for 0.1% of sequenced coronavirus tests.

B.1.617, first identified in India

india coronavirus
Mumbai Police personnel are tested for the coronavirus on October 15, 2020.

The variant first found in India, B.1.617, is in fact three distinct viruses. Collectively, they have spread to more than 17 countries, according to the WHO. All three have been detected in the US, according to GISAID.

The WHO and UK have designated it a “variant of concern” because it’s more infectious than the original virus.

B.1.617 remains a “variant of interest,” according to the CDC.

Its mutations include:

  • L52R: May make the virus more infectious or it may avoid the antibody response.
  • P6814: May make it more infectious.
  • E848Q: May help the virus avoid the antibody response.

No studies to date have found that any of the variants first found in India are deadlier than earlier versions of the virus, or that it can evade vaccines.

Variants under investigation

B.1.427/B.1.429, first identified in California

pfizer covid 19 vaccine distribution
Medical assistant April Massaro gives a first dose of Pfizer BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine to nurse Alice Fallago at Desert Valley Hospital on Thursday, December 17, 2020 in Victorville, California.

The variant first found in California consists of two slightly different mutated forms of the virus, called B.1.427 and B.1.429. It is also called CAL.20C, using another naming system. It was first found in California in July and has now been detected across the US and elsewhere, including in Australia, Denmark, Mexico, and Taiwan, according to the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data (GISAID).

B.1.427/B1.429 are estimated to be about 20% more infectious than the original coronavirus. This is likely because of a mutation called L452R mutation, which in early lab studies was shown to help the virus infect cells.

COVID-19 vaccines haven’t yet been tested against this variant specifically. But early lab experiments showed that antibodies produced by previous COVID-19 infections worked only half as well against the variant as they did with the original coronavirus strain.

The CDC considers B.1.426/B1.429 a “variant of concern”, which means the CDC experts consider that there’s enough evidence that its mutations change its behavior. It remains a “variant under investigation” according to the WHO.

Read more: COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker: AstraZeneca’s shot proves safe and effective, and is headed to the FDA

B.1.526/ B.1.525, first identified in New York

covid scientist lab coronavirus testing samples
Scientists work in a lab testing COVID-19 samples at New York City’s health department, April 23, 2020.

These two variants were detected in New York in late 2020. They are “variants of interest” because they have mutations that could evade antibody responses. B.1.525 accounts for less than 0.5% of sequenced coronavirus tests in the US, according to the CDC.

B.1.526, first identified in New York

These two variants were detected in New York in late 2020. They are “variants of interest” because they have mutations that may evade antibody responses. B.1.526 accounts for under 9% of sequenced coronavirus tests in the US, according to the CDC.

P.2, first identified in Brazil

P.2 was first detected in Brazil in April 2020. It’s a “variant of interest” because it has the E484K mutation that may mean it evades antibody responses. Less than 0.2% of sequenced coronavirus tests in the US are P.2, according to the CDC.

P.3, first identified in the Philippines

P.3 was first detected in the Philippines in February. P.3 has the E484K mutation that may mean it evades the immune response. P.3 hasn’t yet been detected in the US.

B.1.525, first found in UK and Nigeria

B.1.525 was first found in the UK and Nigeria in December 2020. It has the E484K mutation that may mean it evades the antibody response. Less than 0.5% of sequenced coronavirus tests in the US, according to the CDC.

B.1.617, first found in France

B.1.617 was first found in France in January. It hasn’t been detected in any other countries. It may have mutations that mean it can evade tests.

Human behavior can help stop them spreading

AOC Elbow bump Houston Food Bank February 20201.JPG
Ocasio-Cortez elbow bumps a volunteer at the Houston Food Bank.

The WHO has said that everyone should double down on precautions that stop the spread of variants, such as social distancing, hand-washing, mask wearing, and avoiding crowds.

“Human behavior has a very large effect on transmission – probably much larger than any biological differences in SARS-CoV-2 variants,” Paul Bieniasz, a virologist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, told Insider.

Read the original article on Business Insider

3 coronavirus variants can make people sicker or spread faster – and experts are monitoring others, including one spreading in India

people wearing masks coronavirus US
People wearing masks in Del Mar, California.

  • There are three coronavirus variants that experts around the world are worried about.
  • These include variants first identified in South Africa, the UK, and Brazil.
  • Others variants, like one first found in India, have concerning features, but it’s not yet clear they’re more dangerous.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Several coronavirus variants have evolved mutations that mean they spread more easily, make people sicker, escape immune responses, evade tests, or render treatments ineffective.

These are called “variants of concern” by the World Health Organization, and there are three that have spread to the US.

There are various other variants that may have troubling features, which experts are looking into. These are called “variants under investigation,” and include a variant first identified in India.

They differ from the original virus strain in a number of key ways.

Variants of concern

B.1.1.7, first found in the UK

coronavirus hospital UK
A nurse works on a patient in the ICU in London hospital, UK on January 7, 2020.

B.1.1.7 was first detected in two people in south-east England. It was reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) on December 14.

It has been identified in 114 countries worldwide, including the US, where there are more than 20,000 reported cases, according to the CDC. It became the most common variant in the US on April 7. Michigan has the highest proportion of B.1.1.7 cases of any state, accounting for just under 70% of sequenced cases.

B.1.1.7 is between 30% to 50% better at spreading from person to person than other coronavirus variants, according to UK scientists.

B.1.1.7 could be more deadly, but we don’t know for sure

B.1.1.7 could be more deadly. The UK government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) reported a model on January 21 that showed someone infected with B.1.1.7 is 30% to 40% more likely to die than someone with a different variant.

Community-based studies in England, Scotland and Denmark showed that infection with B.1.1.7 in the community causes a higher risk of severe disease requiring hospital treatment and death.

But there is a lot of uncertainty around the numbers. Two studies published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases and the Lancet Public Health on April 13 indicated that B.1.1.7 was more infectious, but didn’t cause worse illness in hospitalized patients.

COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca all appear to protect against B.1.1.7.

B.1.351, first identified in South Africa

COVID-19, South Africa
Health worker Vuyiseka Mathambo takes a nasal swab from a patient to test for COVID-19 at a Masiphumelele community centre in Cape Town, South Africa on July 23, 2020.

B.1.351 was first detected in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa, in samples dating back to the beginning of October 2020. It was reported to the WHO on December 18.

It has been found in 81 countries, including the US, where there are 453 cases reported across 36 states and jurisdictions according to the CDC

B.1.351 is thought to be 50% more contagious than the original strain, according to South African health officials.

It’s not thought to be more deadly. But there is evidence from South Africa that when hospitals came under pressure because of the variant’s spread, the risk of death increased.

B.1.351 may evade the body’s immune response

The variant may evade the body’s immune response, data suggests. Antibodies work best when they attach snugly to the virus and stop it from entering our cells. The B.1.351 variant has mutations called E484K and K417N at the site where antibodies latch on. In early lab tests, antibodies produced by Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines couldn’t attach as well to B.1.351, compared to the original coronavirus.

We don’t know yet whether this impacts the vaccines’ effectiveness in real-life. A real-world study from Israel published on April 10 suggested that Pfizer’s vaccine provided less protection against B.1.351 than the original coronavirus. But it was focused on those who have already tested positive for the virus, not total infection rates, so we can’t draw firm conclusions. Pfizer has published some data suggesting its vaccine may help protect people against this variant.

Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine was 64% effective at preventing COVID-19 in trials in South Africa, where 95% infections are caused by B.1.351, and 72% effective in the US, where B.1.351 accounts for less than 1% of sequenced coronavirus tests.

AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine didn’t prevent mild to moderate disease caused by B.1.351 in a trial, and we don’t yet know if AstraZeneca’s shot still protects against severe illness caused by the variant.

It is unlikely that vaccines will become completely useless against the variant. Existing vaccines could be updated and tailored to a new variant within weeks or months, or you may require a booster shot.

P.1, first identified in Brazil, which is twice as contagious

brazil coronavirus
A COVID-19 patient is rushed into a hospital in Brasilia, Brazil on January 11, 2021.

The variant found in Brazil was first detected in four people in Japan, who had traveled from Brazil on January 2. It was identified by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases on January 6, and reported to the WHO that weekend.

It has been found in 40 countries worldwide, including the US, where there have been 497 cases, according to the CDC

P.1 is twice as contagious as the original coronavirus – it was initially detected in Amazonas, north-west Brazil, on December 4, and by January 21, 91% of people with COVID-19 in the region were infected with P.1, according to the WHO.

P.1 has similar E484K and K417T mutations as B.1.351, which means it can evade antibody responses.

This could be the reason P.1 reinfects people who have already caught coronavirus – a study published April 14 showed that previous coronavirus infection only offered between 54% and 79% of the protection for P.1 than for other virus strains.

P.1’s mutations could also mean that vaccines work less well.

COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and AstraZeneca work against P.1. Moderna’s hasn’t been tested. Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine was 68% effective in trials in Brazil, where the variant is the most common strain, compared with its 72% efficacy in the US, where P.1 at the time accounted for 0.1% of sequenced coronavirus tests.

Variants under investigation

B.1.427/B.1.429, first identified in California

pfizer covid 19 vaccine distribution
Medical assistant April Massaro gives a first dose of Pfizer BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine to nurse Alice Fallago at Desert Valley Hospital on Thursday, December 17, 2020 in Victorville, California.

The variant first found in California consists of two slightly different mutated forms of the virus, called B.1.427 and B.1.429. It is also called CAL.20C, using another naming system. It was first found in California in July and has now been detected across the US and elsewhere, including in Australia, Denmark, Mexico, and Taiwan, according to the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data (GISAID).

B.1.427/B1.429 are estimated to be 20% more infectious than the original coronavirus – they have become the most common coronavirus variants in California, accounting for just under 40% of sequenced cases, according to the CDC. This is likely because of a mutation called L452R mutation, which in early lab studies was shown to help the virus infect cells.

COVID-19 vaccines haven’t yet been tested against this variant specifically. But early lab experiments showed that antibodies produced by previous COVID-19 infections worked only half as well against the variant as they did with the original coronavirus strain.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers B.1.426/B1.429 a “variant of concern”, which means the CDC thinks there’s enough evidence that its mutations change its behavior. But it remains a “variant under investigation” according to the WHO, which means the WHO’s experts haven’t got enough evidence that it’s more deadly, more infectious or evades the immune response.

Read more: COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker: AstraZeneca’s shot proves safe and effective, and is headed to the FDA

B.1.526/ B.1.525, first identified in New York

covid scientist lab coronavirus testing samples
Scientists work in a lab testing COVID-19 samples at New York City’s health department, April 23, 2020.

These two variants were detected in New York in late 2020. They are “variants of interest” because they have mutations that could evade antibody responses. B.1.525 accounts for 0.5% of sequenced coronavirus tests in the US, according to the CDC.

B.1.617, first identified in India

india coronavirus
Mumbai Police personnel are tested for the coronavirus on October 15, 2020.

The variant first found in India, B.1.617 is in fact three distinct viruses. Collectively, they have spread to 17 countries, according to the WHO. All three have been detected in the US, according to GISAID.

B.1.617 is not yet a “variant of interest”, according to the CDC. But the WHO and UK have designated it a “variant under investigation” because it has some potentially worrying mutations.

These mutations could:

  • Make the virus more infectious or it may avoid the antibody response.
  • Make it more infectious.
  • Help the virus avoid the antibody response.

No studies to date have found that any of the variants first found in India are deadlier than earlier versions of the virus, or that it can evade vaccines.

B.1.526, first identified in New York

These two variants were detected in New York in late 2020. They are “variants of interest” because they have mutations that may evade antibody responses. B.1.526 accounts for under 10% of sequenced coronavirus tests in the US, according to the CDC.

P.2, first identified in Brazil

P.2 was first detected in Brazil in April 2020. It’s a “variant of interest” because it has the E484K mutation that may mean it evades antibody responses. Less than 1% of sequenced coronavirus tests in the US are P.2, according to the CDC.

P.3, first identified in the Philippines

P.3 was first detected in the Philippines in February. P.3 has the E484K mutation that may mean it evades the immune response. P.3 hasn’t yet been detected in the US.

B.1.525, first found in UK and Nigeria

B.1.525 was first found in the UK and Nigeria in December 2020. It has the E484K mutation that may mean it evades the antibody response. Less than 1% of sequenced coronavirus tests in the US, according to the CDC.

B.1.617, first found in France

B.1.617 was first found in France in January. It hasn’t been detected in any other countries. It may have mutations that mean it can evade tests.

Human behavior can help stop them spreading

AOC Elbow bump Houston Food Bank February 20201.JPG
Ocasio-Cortez elbow bumps a volunteer at the Houston Food Bank.

The WHO has said that everyone should double down on precautions that stop the spread of variants, such as social distancing, hand-washing, mask wearing, and avoiding crowds.

“Human behavior has a very large effect on transmission – probably much larger than any biological differences in SARS-CoV-2 variants,” Paul Bieniasz, a virologist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, told Insider.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The coronavirus variant first found in Brazil is developing worrying new mutations that could make vaccines less effective, experts say

brazil coronavirus
A COVID-19 patient is rushed into a hospital in Brasilia, Brazil on January 11, 2021.

  • The coronavirus variant first found in Brazil, P.1, is still mutating, Brazil’s top public health body said.
  • Some of these mutations may make the shot more resistant to vaccines, Fiocruz said.
  • Another study published Wednesday indicated P.1 could reinfect people who previously had COVID-19.
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The P.1 coronavirus variant causing cases to soar in Brazil, Canada, and elsewhere is mutating in “particularly worrying” ways that could make it more resistant to vaccines, researchers from Brazil’s leading public health body have warned.

The variant is also able to reinfect people who have already caught coronavirus, a new study published Wednesday suggested.

Felipe Naveca, a researcher at public-health body Fiocruz, said the new mutations affected the part of the virus that attaches to cells, called the spike protein, and could make vaccines that target this protein less effective, per Reuters.

“We believe it’s another escape mechanism the virus is creating to evade the response of antibodies,” Naveca said. He works in the Amazon city of Manaus, where the P.1 variant is believed to have originated in December.

“This is particularly worrying because the virus is continuing to accelerate in its evolution,” he added.

Naveca said that the new changes appeared to be similar to the mutations seen in the variant first found in South Africa, called B.1.351. In early lab tests, antibodies produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines couldn’t attach as well to B.1.351 compared to the original coronavirus.

In the separate, new study published Wednesday, researchers said that previous coronavirus infection offered between 54% and 79% protection against future P.1 infection, compared to protection against COVID-19 infection with other virus strains. The study was conducted by the University of São Paulo, Imperial College London, and the University of Oxford.

Read more: Moderna is betting its mRNA technology will lead to a new wave of vaccines for diseases like HIV. Here are the top 5 it’s working on beyond COVID-19.

The public health agency in Canada, where there has been a rise in P.1 cases in recent weeks, said in the statement Thursday that early evidence suggested the P.1 variant may reduce vaccine effectiveness, “making it even more important to control its spread.”

P.1 is about twice as contagious as the original virus and has spread to 36 countries, according to the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID). Just under 500 cases have been reported in the US across 31 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In countries where it is prominent, P.1 is infecting a high number of younger people. Brazil hospital data shows that in March more than half of all patients in intensive care were aged 40 or younger, per Reuters.

Ester Sabino, a scientist at the faculty of medicine of the University of Sao Paulo, told Reuters that further mutations of the P.1 variant were not surprising given the fast pace of transmission.

“If you have a high level of transmission, like you have in Brazil at the moment, your risk of new mutations and variants increases,” she said.

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9 key questions answered about the worrying coronavirus variants spreading around the world, including whether vaccines block them, how contagious they are, and when they reached the US

double mask
Brendan Williams, president of the New Hampshire Health Care Association, puts on a surgical mask while carrying another mask.

  • Experts worldwide are urgently studying three coronavirus variants to understand what risks they pose.
  • One variant first identified in the UK, one in South Africa, and one in Brazil are probably more contagious than the original virus.
  • They have caused cases to surge and the three nations to lock down. Here are nine key questions about the variants, answered.

Experts are urgently investigating three different coronavirus variants – found in the UK, South Africa, and Brazil – that have caused explosive outbreaks and are spreading around the world.

Often, small genetic changes that a virus makes when it replicates, called mutations, don’t affect its behavior. But these three coronavirus variants, each evolved separately, appear to have developed similar characteristics that affect how they spread.

Here’s what we know so far

All the variants contain mutations in the code for their spike protein, the part of the virus that it uses to infect cells. Alterations in this area could enable the virus to infect cells more easily, and the spike protein is the target for COVID-19 vaccines developed by Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, Johnson&Johnson and AstraZeneca.

With information frequently changing, we’ve compiled a list of everything we know so far about the variants, answering nine key questions, such as whether vaccines work on them and whether they’ve spread to the US.

Read more: What it actually means that a new coronavirus strain is more transmissible – and how that changes your chances of getting sick

The variants were first detected in the UK, South Africa, and Japan 

  • UK – B.1.1.7

B.1.1.7 was first detected in two people in south-east England. It was reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) on December 14.

B.1.17 has been identified in 82 countries worldwide, including the US.

  • South Africa – 501.Y.V2

501.Y.V2 was first detected in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa, in samples dating back to the beginning of October 2020. It was reported to the WHO on December 18.

The UK identified two cases of 501.Y.V2 on December 22, in people who had come into contact with someone who had traveled from South Africa.

501.Y.V2 has been found in 40 countries globally, including the US.

  • Brazil -P.1

The variant found in Brazil was first detected in four people in Japan, who had traveled from Brazil on January 2. It was identified by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases on January 6, and reported to the WHO that weekend.

It has been found in 28 countries worldwide, including the US.

The variants are more contagious

The B.1.1.7 variant, first found in the UK, is thought to be 30% to 50% more contagious than other forms of the virus, according to Public Health England estimates. This means it is 30-50% better at spreading from person to person than other coronavirus variants.

501.Y.V2, the variant found in South Africa, is thought to be 50% more contagious than other variants, because it has spread 50% faster, becoming the most common strain in people with COVID-19 in coastal regions of South Africa.

P.1, found in Brazil, is probably more contagious –it was initially detected in Amazonas, north-west Brazil, on December 4 and by January 21, 91% of people with COVID-19 in the region were infected with P.1, according to the World Health Organization

It’s not known precisely why the variants are more contagious

Research is ongoing, but working theories are that both variants have changes in the spike protein, meaning they can potentially infect cells more easily.  The swabs of people infected with B.1.1.7 and 501.Y.V2 also appear to have more viral particles than the original virus, known as a higher viral load. The more viral particles an infected person expels, the more likely they are to infect others.

The variant first found in South Africa – 501.Y.V2 – has been shown in early lab studies to sometimes avoid antibodies, produced by the body to fight off infection. If this happens in humans, it could mean it infects people more easily and could increase the likelihood of catching coronavirus more than once.

Mutations called E484K and K417T could be responsible for this – the variant found in Brazil have them too. B.1.1.7, the variant first found in the UK, doesn’t have this particular mutation.

pfizer covid 19 vaccine distribution
Medical assistant April Massaro gives a first dose of Pfizer BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine to nurse Alice Fallago at Desert Valley Hospital on Thursday, December 17, 2020 in Victorville, California.

They could be more deadly

The variants first found in the UK and South Africa at present do not seem to cause more severe disease, the WHO said on January 11. However, a more contagious variant could cause more deaths, because more people get sick.  

It is unclear whether or not P.1. is more deadly. This is “under investigation”, according to the WHO on February 21.

Adam Kucharski, an associate professor at the London School for Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, has explained to Insider why the ability to spread more easily could make the variant more dangerous than a deadlier strain.

There is evidence from South Africa that when hospitals became under pressure, the risk of death increased.

The UK government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) reported a model on January 21 that showed someone infected with B.1.1.7 is 30 to 40 per cent more likely to die than someone with a different variant, but there is a lot of uncertainty around the numbers.

Human behavior can help stop them spreading

The WHO has said that because the variants are more contagious, everyone should double down on precautions that stop their spread, such as social distancing, hand-washing, mask wearing, and avoiding crowds.

“Human behavior has a very large effect on transmission – probably much larger than any biological differences in SARS-CoV-2 variants,” Paul Bieniasz, a virologist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, previously told Insider.

Vaccines will probably work

It is too soon to know for sure, but it appears unlikely that the mutations will render vaccines totally useless. 

The vaccines available all target the coronavirus spike protein. The spike protein has multiple sites that all cause different immune responses in the body. Mutations could affect some of the sites, but are unlikely to affect all of them.

Pfizer said January 29 that its vaccine should work against some particular mutations that the variants found in South Africa and the UK have, after it tested its vaccine on lab-made variants. Further lab studies on February 18 have shown that Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine worked less well against lab-made viruses that mimicked the variant in South Africa.  The lab-made variants were not the exact variants found in the UK or South Africa.  

Moderna ran similar tests, and announced January 25 that its vaccine held up well against the mutations found in B.1.1.7, but less well against the mutations found in 501.Y.V2, the variant found in South Africa. Again it used lab-made variants.

The one dose COVID-19 vaccine developed by Johnson&Johnson was less effective in clinical trials in South Africa, where 95% infections are caused by 501.Y.V2. 

Existing vaccines could also be updated and tailored to a new variant within weeks or months. Or you may require a booster shot.

Moderna said January 25 that it will develop a new version of its COVID-19 shot to fight 501.Y.V2, the variant found in South Africa. Pfizer said January 26 that it is already working on booster shots that protect against coronavirus variants. 

  • B.1.1.7 – first found in UK

Experts think the COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca will protect people against the B.1.1.7 variant found in the UK. The vaccines haven’t been tested against real-life coronavirus B.1.1.7 variants yet.

  • 501.Y.V2 – first found in South Africa

Studies suggest that the variant can escape some antibodies in the lab – researchers don’t yet know how, or if, this will affect how well vaccines work in people. 

The vaccines haven’t been tested against real-life coronavirus 501.Y.V2 variants yet.

Tulio de Oliveira, who is leading South Africa’s scientific effort to understand the variant, told the Financial Times that his group thinks a vaccine could be a little less effective, but is optimistic. “Between all the varieties of vaccines that are coming to the market, we still have strong belief that some of them will be very effective,” de Oliveira said.

Read more: What’s coming next for COVID-19 vaccines? Here’s the latest on 11 leading programs.

The variants could affect more young people 

Experts have said that the B.1.1.7 variant could affect kids more than previous variants, but evidence is still emerging. 

Public health experts in the Western Cape, South Africa have said that the proportion of young people who have been hospitalized and died from COVID-19 in South Africa has remained the same, but there are more young people in hospital, because more people overall are sick.

COVID-19 treatments could still work

There is no evidence currently to suggest the B.1.1.7 mutations mean that COVID-19 treatments are less effective against this variant.

Scientists think that a mutation found in the variant first identified in South Africa could mean that certain antibody drugs do not work as well.

But dexamethasone, a steroid, would probably still work just as well.

All three variants have been identified in the US

In the US, 2400 cases of B.1.1.7 –  the variant first found in the UK – have been identified, according to the CDC. The variant has been found in 46 US states, including New York, Florida, and California. 

The variant identified in South Africa, 501Y.V2, was first detected in the US on January 28.

There is are ten known cases of P.1 in the US, the variant found in Brazil first identified in Japan. It was first detected in Minnesota on January 24. The Minnesota resident who got infected with P.1 had recently traveled to Brazil, the Minnesota Department of Health said.

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The UK is rushing to track down a person infected with P.1, the coronavirus variant first found in Brazil. Officials don’t know who the person is, or where in the country they are.

London coronavirus face mask
A woman stands a crosswalk in London, UK on October 15, 2020.

  • Six cases of the coronavirus variant first found in Brazil, called P.1, have been detected in the UK.
  • One of the people infected didn’t complete a test registration card, so officials don’t know who it is.
  • P.1 is probably more infectious, and has spread to 28 countries, including the US.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The coronavirus variant first identified in Brazil, called P.1, has been detected in the UK, but officials are struggling to track down one infected person because they didn’t fill out a form with their details.

Public Health England (PHE) said Sunday that there were six P.1 cases in total in the UK – three in Scotland and three in England. Two of the cases in England were from a single household in South Gloucestershire, south-west England, which had a history of travel to Brazil. 

PHE also confirmed a “third, currently unlinked case.” This was someone that didn’t complete a COVID-19 registration form when they took their test, so PHE cannot immediately track them down. 

PHE has launched an appeal for anyone who took a test on February 12 or February 13, around the time that the test was processed, to come forward. Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said PHE was working with the postal service to try to locate the unidentified person, the BBC reported.

P.1 was first detected in four travelers from Brazil who flew to Japan and were tested during routine screening in Tokyo on January 2. It has since spread to 28 countries, including to the US, where there are 10 cases, according to GISAID. P.1 was first found in the US in Minnesota on January 26.  

The two people in South Gloucestershire in the UK with P.1 had traveled to London from Sao Paulo in Brazil via Switzerland on February 10. The health service is now testing other people without symptoms in the South Gloucestershire area to try to find any other P.1 cases.

“We have identified these [P.1] cases thanks to the UK’s advanced sequencing capabilities which means we are finding more variants and mutations than many other countries and are therefore able to take action quickly,” Dr. Susan Hopkins, PHE strategic response director for COVID-19 and NHS Test and Trace Medical Advisor, said in a statement. 

The UK hotel quarantine rule, whereby travelers coming into the country from 33 countries – including Brazil – must quarantine in a hotel for 10 days on arrival, came into effect on February 15, after their arrival. Before this date, people were asked to self-isolate at home for 10 days.

The people identified with P.1 in Scotland had flown to Aberdeen from Brazil via Paris and London, and were self-isolating, the Scottish government said Sunday. The Scottish government said that others on the flight were being contacted. In Scotland, the hotel quarantine rule applies to travelers from all countries.

P.1 has eleven mutations. Three of them are in the spike protein – the part of the virus that it uses to infect human cells. 

Two of the mutations, called E484K and K417T, could mean that P.1 is able to evade antibodies produced by the body in response to COVID-19 or after immunization. There have been a number of reinfections reported, but we don’t yet know whether vaccines work less well against P.1. 

These two mutations are also found in the variant first identified in South Africa, and early studies have shown that Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine worked less well against lab-made viruses containing these mutations.

Another mutation, called N501Y, probably makes P.1 more infectious. It was initially detected in Amazonas, north-west Brazil, on December 4 and by January 21, 91% of people with COVID-19 in the region were infected with P.1, according to the World Health Organization

It is not yet known whether P.1. is more contagious than other coronavirus variants such as B.1.1.7, the variant first detected in the UK. 

B.1.1.7 has spread to 82 countries worldwide including to 46 states in the US, where it is fast-becoming the most common coronavirus strain in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

It is also unclear whether or not P.1. is more deadly. This is “under investigation”, according to the WHO.

“The measures to stop [P.1] spreading do not change,” Hopkins said. “Stay at home […] cover your nose and mouth, wash your hands thoroughly.”

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