The more transmissible COVID-19 variant that originated in the U.K. is doubling in the U.S. every 10 days, according to a new study.
The study, which has not yet been peer reviewed, also found the variant to be 35-45 percent more transmissible than the COVID-19 strain first circulating in the U.S.
“Unless decisive and immediate public health action is taken, the increased transmission rate of these lineages and resultant higher effective reproduction number of SARSCoV-2 will likely have devastating consequences to COVID-19 mortality and morbidity in the U.S. in a few months, if decisive action is not immediately taken,” the authors write.
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Dozens of researchers from both academia, public and private health sectors sequenced and analyzed positive COVID-19 samples across the U.S. to better gauge how contagious the variant from the U.K. is and how fast it grows.
For the study, the strain from the U.K. was represented by a proxy testing anomaly, similar in genetic structure to the mutation first seen in England.
Approximately half a million samples were tested in Helix Industries since July 2020. Scientists began specifically looking at the strain from the U.K. in early October 2020, citing 0.2 percent of daily positive COVID-19 samples with a similar genetic structure seen in the spike protein of the mutation from the U.K.
Further analysis revealed that researchers found that during January 2021, the nationwide proportion of COVID-19 tests that matched the strain from the U.K., known as B.1.1.7, increased from an average of 0.8 percent in the first week to 4.2 percent in the last week.
These results imply a high level of transmission and growth of the virus within a population.
“Given the current trajectory of B.1.1.7 in the U.S., it is almost certainly destined to become the dominant SARS-CoV-2 lineage by March, 2021 across many U.S. states,” the report reads.
Based on the sample of positive tests sequenced in the study, the variant from the U.K. was detected in the U.S. multiple times in November 2020, with two prominent groups detected in Florida and California.
Cases in other states, including North Carolina, Georgia and Texas, led researchers to believe that B.1.1.7 has likely been spreading throughout the country since late 2020.
Despite a lower frequency of occurrence in the U.S. as opposed to some European countries, the B.1.1.7 is expected to grow, researchers say, into the dominant COVID-19 strain in the U.S. based on its current movements — mainly driven by community spread.
The authors conclude by noting that consistent virus surveillance is key to tracking and tackling COVID-19 mutations.
With news of various COVID-19 mutations circulating across the globe, vaccine developers are looking to adjust their vaccine candidates to provide protection against multiple COVID-19 variants and to create booster medicine to bridge any shortfalls in existing vaccines.
Recent studies conducted by Pfizer suggest that COVID-19 mutations only had small implications on the amount of antibodies produced by its vaccine, and Moderna is currently developing a booster shot to help fight any new variants.
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