A new form of coronavirus is spreading rapidly in New York City, and it carries a worrying mutation that may weaken the vaccines’ effectiveness, two teams of researchers have found.
The new version, named B.1.526, first appeared in specimens collected in the city in November. By the middle of this month, it was responsible for one of the four viral sequences appearing in the database shared by scientists.
There was a study of the new edition led by a group at Caltech Posted online on Tuesday. Others, by researchers at Columbia University, have been submitted to a preprint server, but are not yet public.
Neither study has been vetoed by peer review nor published in a scientific journal. But consistent results suggest that the spread of variants is real, experts said.
“This is not particularly happy news,” said Michelle Nusenzweg, an immunologist at Rockefeller University who was not involved in the new research. “But it’s good to know about it just because then maybe we can do something about it.”
Dr. Nussenzweig said he was worried sooner than the version in New York Spreading to california. Yet another contagious new version, which was discovered in Britain, now accounts for About 2,000 cases In 45 states. It is expected to become the most prevalent form of coronovirus in the United States by the end of March.
Researchers are investigating the genetic material of the virus to see how it is changing. They examine the genetic sequences of viruses taken from a small proportion of infected people for the emergence of new versions.
Caltech researchers discovered an increase in B.1.526 by scanning for mutations in thousands of thousands of viral genetic sequences in a database called G.1AID. “There was a pattern that was recurring, and a group of isolates were concentrated in the New York area that I hadn’t seen,” said computational biologist Anthony West of Caltech.
He and his colleagues found two versions of coronovirus in frequency: one with E484K mutation Seen in South Africa and Brazil, which helps the virus partially dodge the vaccine; And another called mutation S477N, Which can affect how strongly the virus binds to human cells.
Dr. West said that by mid-February, the two had together collected about 27 percent of New York City’s viral scenes in the database. (Currently, the two are put together as B.1.526.)
Columbia University researchers adopted a different approach. He took 1,142 samples from patients at his medical center. They found that 12 percent of people with coronovirus were infected with the variant that contains the mutation E484K.
Patients infected with the virus carrying that mutation were on average about six years older and more likely to be hospitalized. Director of Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center, Dr. David Ho said most patients were found in areas close to the hospital – particularly Washington Heights and Inwood – where many other cases were scattered throughout the metropolitan area.
“We see cases in Westchester, in the Bronx and Queens, in the lower part of Manhattan, and in Brooklyn,” Drs. Ho said. “So it starts getting wider. This is not a single outbreak. “
The team identified six cases of variants caught in Britain, two infections of one variant identified in Brazil and one case of variance in South Africa. Dr. Ho said the first two were not reported in New York City.
Dr. Ho said university investigators have alerted New York State and city officials as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He and his colleagues plan to sequence about 100 viral genetic samples a day to monitor the rise of variants.
Other experts said the sudden appearance of coronavirus variants was worrisome.
“Given the involvement of E484K or S477N, with the fact that the New York area is very much immune to the spring wave, this is definitely one,” said Christian Anderson, a virologist at the S487s Research Institute. “Diego, who was not involved in new research efforts.
The E484K mutation has independently cropped up in many different parts of the world, an indication that it provides a significant advantage to the virus.
Evolutionary microbiologist Andrew Reid of Penn State University said, “One advantage of the variants is that the frequency is increasing very quickly, especially when the numbers are decreasing.
Dr. Ho’s team Reported in january Monoclonal antibodies made by Eli Lilly, and one of the monoclonal antibodies in cocktails made by Regeron, are powerless against variants identified in South Africa.
And now many studies have shown that variants with E484K mutations are less susceptible to vaccines than the original form of the virus. Mutations interfere with the activity of a class of antibodies that almost everyone makes, Drs. Nussenzwig said.
“Those who have overcome coronovirus or who have been vaccinated are likely to be able to fight this version, with no doubt about it,” he said. But “they can get a little sick of it.”
They said they could also infect others and continue to transmit the virus, delaying herd immunity.
But other experts were slightly more optimistic. “These things are handled a little less well by vaccines, but these are not orders of magnitude below, which would terrify me,” read more.
As the virus continues to evolve, vaccines will need to be twisted, “but in the scheme of things, those people don’t have huge concerns compared to not having vaccines,” Dr. Reid said. “I’d say the glass is three-quarters full of where we were compared to last year.”