Oregon researchers have discovered a case of a rapidly spreading variant of COVID-19 carrying a mutation that may be less affected by existing vaccines designed to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
The case, discovered on February 6, involves a British variant, also known as B.1.1.7, that is thought to be more deadly and contagious than the original strain of COVID-19.
This option is found in almost every US state. But the Oregon case also had the E484K mutation, which was first discovered in the South African variant of COVID-1
Other cases of a UK variant combined with this mutation have been found in the UK, France and Portugal, according to a coronavirus variation tracking database. Only one other case in the USA has been registered in the database.
Brian O’Roak, a geneticist at Oregon University of Health and Science who heads the work, told the New York Times that the case “arose spontaneously” and was not transmitted from anywhere else in the world, according to genetic analysis.
O’Roak and colleagues analyzed 13 test results from coronavirus samples collected by the Oregon State Public Health Laboratory, the Times reported. Ten of the samples were variant B.1.1.7. One of these 10 had an E484K mutation.
The Oregon health authority said it was “too early to speculate” on how the spread of COVID-19 variants affects the effectiveness of currently approved vaccines in the United States by Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer.
“Current vaccines are still able to protect against severe infections leading to hospitalizations and deaths,” the agency said in a statement on Saturday.
The researchers found that human antibodies that fight the disease were less effective against COVID-19 viruses with the E484K mutation, according to a document that has not yet been reviewed. A February study report also found that the Pfizer vaccine may be less effective against the variant in South Africa, which involves the E484K mutation.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working to increase the monitoring and laboratory sequencing of COVID-19 strains in the United States to gain a clearer picture of their characteristics.
Oregon’s first case of Brazil’s COVID-19 variant was also identified Tuesday in Douglas County.
The Brazilian variant, known as variant P.1, also has an E484K mutation that scientists have found to be related. The Oregon, who agreed with the Brazilian option, had some travel history before being positive, the state health authority said.
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