Another contagious and possibly more deadly variant of the coronavirus is thinning out across the US, which is an alarming concern for health officials.
The B.1.1.7 variant, initially spotted in the UK, is not only more easily communicated, but it also seems to be more deadly. Dr. Anthony Fauci cautioned about it on Friday in a White House coronavirus update.
It was originally found in Colorado at the end of December, mentioned Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the chief medical adviser to President Biden.
“Since then it has been detected in 50 jurisdictions in the United States, and likely accounts now for about 20 to 30% of the infections in this country. And that number is growing,” Fauci said.
“Of concern is that there are about 50% increase in transmission with this particular variant that has been documented in the UK and there’s likely an increase in severity of disease if infected with this variant,” he mentioned.
Fauci referred to a study displaying a 64% increased risk of death for people infected with B.1.1.7 in comparison to people infected with the older, variant. He referred to another study that indicated a 61% higher risk of death with B.1.1.7.
However vaccines seem to protect well against B.1.1.7 and treatments like monoclonal antibodies also appear to be effective against this particular variant, Fauci remarked.
This increased risk makes it more important than ever to get people vaccinated quickly, he mentioned.
“The way we can counter 1.1.7, which is a growing threat in our country, is to do two things: To get as many people vaccinated as quickly and as expeditiously as possible with the vaccine that we know works against this variant and, finally, to implement the public health measures that we talk about all the time … masking, physical distancing, and avoiding congregant settings, particularly indoors,” he added.
Vaccines appear to be working against B.1.1.7 variant.
The three vaccines that have as of now been sanctioned for emergency use from the US Food and Drug Administration seem to protect people well against B.1.1.7.
“Preliminary evidence suggests that the currently authorized COVID-19 vaccines may provide some protection against a variety of strains, including B.1.1.7 (originally identified in the United Kingdom),” the CDC mentions in its guidance for fully vaccinated people.
More variants could arise
What worries health experts is the apprehension of more mutations acquired by the virus. Multiple variants are worrying doctors, including the B.1.351 variant originally noticed in South Africa and the P.1 variant that is common now in Brazil. They both carry a mutation called as E484K that does appear to greatly evade the body’s immune response.
“Worryingly, we have shown that there are multiple B.1.1.7 sequences in the UK bearing E484K with early evidence of transmission as well as independent acquisitions,” they marked.
Several experiments show that the B.1.351 and P.1. variants may much more effortlessly dodge the immune response provoked by vaccines and also by some monoclonal antibody treatments, which require lab engineered immune system proteins to increase immune response.