B.1.1.7 UK Variant Rapidly Spreading In The US

The new study provides the initial “nationwide look at variant of the history,” identified as B.1.1.7, since it occurred in the US in late 2020.

A new study has strengthened the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC’s prediction that “the so-called B.1.17 variant will dominate” cases of COVID-19 by March.

The New York Times report said that a more infectious strain of the COVID-19 virus originally detected in Britain is spreading fast in the United States, doubling approximately every 10 days.

Analyzing about 500,000 COVID-19 tests and hundreds of genomes, a research team projected that in one month, this UK variant could become prevalent in the US, possibly resulting in a surge of new cases and increased danger of death.

The new study provides the initial “nationwide look at variant of the history,” identified as B.1.1.7, since it occurred in the US in late 2020.

Warning from the CDC

In January, the CDC warned that “B.1.1.7 could become predominant” by next month if it behaved the way it did in Britain. This new research validates that predicted path.

According to the study’s co-author and La Jolla, California-based Scripps Research Institute virologist Kristian Andersen, nothing in the research is surprising although people should see it.

“We should probably prepare for this being the predominant lineage” in most US areas by March, explained the virologist.

Dr. Andersen’s group approximated that the UK variant’s transmission rate in the US is 30 percent to 40 percent higher than that of the more common strains, even though those numbers may go up “as more data comes in,” he explained.

Meanwhile, the London of School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine epidemiologist Nicholas Davies who was not part of the study said, there “could indeed be a very serious situation” developing in a couple of months or weeks. He added that these may be early signs that warranted public health authorities’ urgent investigation.

Worrisome Cases in the US

The news report also specified that Dr. Davies warned that US data is more irregular compared to Britain and other nations with the national variant monitoring system.

Still, the expert found results from some parts of the US, particularly worrisome. In Florida, where the new research specifies the strain is spreading particularly fast, Dr. Davies is afraid that a new surge may hit even quicker than the rest of the nation.

The epidemiologist continued, if such data are a representative, “there may be limited time to act.” Dr. Andersen, together with his colleagues, yesterday posted their work online. It has not yet been published though in any scientific journal.

When the government of Britain announced the detection of the B.1.1.7 in December last year, Dr. Andersen, as well as other researchers in the US started to check for it in US coronavirus samples.

The initial case reportedly “turned up on December 29 in Colorado, and Andersen discovered another soon after, in San Diego. In short order, it was detected in many other locations in the US.

It was difficult to determine, though, just how prevalent the strain was. B.1.1.7 has a unique set of 23 mutations spread in a genome that is about 30,000 genetic letters long.

Furthermore, the best way to find out if a virus belongs to the UK variant lineage is by sequencing the entire genome, a process that can be carried only with specific machines.

Originally published at The Science Times

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