Researchers announced this week that a new variant has been discovered in New York City and elsewhere in the Northeast that has mutated and may be more resistant to vaccines.
According to researchers, the variant, dubbed B.1.526, has appeared in diverse neighborhoods in New York City and “is scattered in the Northeast.”
The new variant is reportedly similar to the strain first seen in South Africa, which appears to evade some of the body’s response to vaccines. It was first reported in the New York Times.
It is believed that the New York City variant could be more contagious and potentially may cause more severe infections.
“We observed a steady increase in the detection rate from late December to mid-February, with an alarming rise to 12.7 percent in the past two weeks,” researchers from the Columbia University Medical Center wrote in a new report.
“We find the rate of detection of this new variant is going up over the past few weeks. A concern is that it might be beginning to overtake other strains, just like the UK and South African variants.”
A separate research team from the California Institute of Technology also said that “it appears that the frequency of lineage B.1.526 has increased rapidly in New York.”
Columbia researchers say they have identified at least 80 cases of the new variant across the Tri-State area, which is indicative of more than one single outbreak.
Anne-Catrin Uhlemann, an associate professor at Columbia in the Division of Infectious diseases said that “increasing our genomic sequencing effort will help us better understand the impact of the new variant and keep our eyes open for new variants that may pop up in our area.”
Though some are concerned about the new strain, Bill Neidhardt, a spokesperson for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio downplayed the variant.
“It’s great that Columbia and other academics are looking into COVID variants,” he posted on Twitter. “But please, please for the love of all that is holy share the data with public health officials before you publicize pre-writes that still have track changes with the NY Times. That’s all.”
Dr. Jay Varma, also on social media, added: “Plea to academics: please review high impact studies w/govt (sic) health depts (sic) before marketing it to media. We’re left to decipher science from journalist’s abstract while fielding calls from electeds, public, media how this changes policy. Pathogen porn isn’t helping public health.”
“Not all variants are of public health concern. Some variants are just that -- they're variants, they're just a little bit different. Some variants are variants of interest -- they have changes in their structure that might change the virus' property,” Varma, a senior health advisor to de Blasio’s office, said.
“Some some variants are variants of what we call public health concern -- they have these mutations and we have enough data to show that they change whether the virus is more infectious, whether it's more lethal, whether it can change immunity."
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