Covid-19: what we know about the new variant detected in New York

DECRYPTION – New York researchers have reported the emergence of a new variant of the coronavirus, called B.1.526. A mutation which would be more contagious and resistant than the initial strain.

A new source of concern. At the end of last week, two studies detailed the characteristics of a new variant of the coronavirus, detected in New York. After the South African, Brazilian and British changes, here is the New Yorker.

Scientists at the University of Colombia say this new strain B.1.526 carries a “unique set of cutting edge mutations” that “could threaten the effectiveness of current antibody therapies and vaccines.” The researchers, who worked on a sample of 1,142 people positive for the coronavirus, say that those affected were on average older and more frequently hospitalized than those infected with the original virus.

Rapid expansion

Over the days, the study’s authors also noted a steady increase in the number of people affected by this strain, now accounting for about a quarter of new infections in the New York area. Thus, 27% of the viral sequences identified in New York in February 2021 would correspond to the B.1.526 variant, all with an increase of 12.7% in two weeks. “We are seeing that the detection rate of this new variant is increasing in recent weeks. The concern is that it could start to overtake other strains, just like the British and South African variants ,  advises CNN Dr. David Ho, director of the Aaron Diamond Center for AIDS Research at Columbia University. To the New York Times , he specifies that cases have been “detected in Westchester, in the Bronx and Queens, in lower Manhattan and in Brooklyn” . “So it seems to be widespread, it’s not just a cluster,” he stresses.

Greater immune resistance?

At the same time, a Caltech team claims that this new variant actually combines several mutations, at least two. “When several mutations occur on the RNA of the virus, we then speak of a variant,” explains Parisian Antoine Flahault, director of the Institute for Global Health and professor at the Faculty of Medicine in Geneva. In this case, the first, E484K, was observed in particular in South Africa and in Brazil. The second, S477N, is able to change the way the virus attaches to human cells.In addition to being more contagious, the B.1.526 variant could exhibit greater resistance to the antibodies developed against the virus. ” Like the South African variant, it seems to bypass the antibodies that we produce to protect us from the virus,” explains epidemiologist Philippe Amouyel, interviewed by BFMTV .

No new measures

However, local doctors and US health authorities are procrastinating, the health situation in New York remaining relatively stable. Principal health adviser of the city of New York, Dr. Jay Varma considers that the appearance of this new variant does not change the measures to be adopted to fight against the pandemic in the country. 

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