Known as P1, the strain is believed to be more infectious than the original and the other mutations, but it is unclear by how much.
According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), P1 now accounts for at least 434 COVID-19 cases across 28 jurisdictions. This is the first time that the P1 variant has come in second.
Health authorities are concerned that the P1 strain may have the ability to evade the antibodies the body produces from a prior coronavirus infection, or the antibodies supposedly triggered by the coronavirus vaccines. Most of the COVID-19 patients with the P1 variant are in Massachusetts, where 102 cases were found. Other states that have a significant number of P1 cases are Illinois with 93, Florida with 87 and California with 39.
All three authorized vaccines available in the U.S. – made by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson – are supposedly effective against the P1 variant, although their potency is somewhat diminished.
The data regarding the rise of the P1 strain comes as the U.S. grapples with the fact that coronavirus infections are still climbing despite the fact that the daily vaccination rate is also on the rise.
The P1 strain has become the dominant form in Brazil, where the country’s healthcare facilities are on the verge of collapsing as patients who survived prior infections are getting infected again by the P1 variant. (Related: Post-vaccine SUPER STRAINS emerge: Coronavirus pandemic in Brazil beginning to affect younger people at higher rates.)
U.K. variant now the dominant strain in the U.S.
On Wednesday, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky announced that the UK variant, known as B.1.1.7, is “now the most common variant circulating in the United States.”
The B.1.1.7 strain has overtaken the original form of the coronavirus. It now accounts for 19,554 active COVID-19 cases in the U.S.
The CDC has been warning the country about B.1.1.7 since January. The agency claims it is considered at least 50 percent more transmissible and a lot more virulent than the original coronavirus strain.
The CDC claims that the three vaccines in the U.S. that have been given emergency use authorizations are effective at dealing with B.1.1.7.
After B.1.1.7 and P1, the CDC has listed the South African strain of the coronavirus as the third “variant of concern.” There are currently 424 recorded cases of the South African variant in the U.S., just 10 fewer cases than the Brazilian strain.
There may be more variant cases spreading undetected
The number of COVID-19 cases caused by different variants may be larger, but health authorities are unable to keep up with the data because the country does not do enough gene sequencing compared to most of the developed world.
Gene sequencing involves taking samples of the coronavirus from positive test results to a specialized lab, which will then seek the genetic code of the virus. Once the code has been laid out, scientists can identify it.
If the country is unable to do enough gene sequencing, it is possible that the new variants like P1 and B.1.1.7 could be a lot more widespread than current data shows.
According to COVID CoV Genomic, a project led by researchers from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the U.S. ranks 33rd in the world in gene sequencing. The country is in between the African nations of Burkina Faso and Zimbabwe. The top three nations – Iceland, Australia and New Zealand – are sequencing coronavirus samples at a rate between 55 and 95 times greater than the U.S.
Learn more about the state of the pandemic in the U.S. and in other parts of the world by reading the latest articles at Pandemic.news.