(WXYZ) — The first case of the Brazilian COVID-19 variant P.1 has been identified in Michigan, nearly three months after the U.K. variant was first identified in Michigan.
According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the variant was identified in Bay County, Michigan. Also, in March, the the B. 1.351 variant was identified in a male child in Jackson County.
"We are concerned about the discovery of another variant in Michigan," MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel said in a release. "It is now even more important that Michiganders continue to do what works to slow the spread of the virus by wearing their masks properly, socially distancing, avoiding crowds, washing their hands often and making a plan to get the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine once it is their turn. We all have a personal responsibility to slow the spread of COVID-19 and end this pandemic as quickly as possible."
The P.1 variant was first identified in travelers from Brazil during routine airport screening in Tokyo, Japan in early January. This variant has been associated with increased transmissibility and there are concerns it might affect both vaccine-induced and natural immunity.
As of March 31, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported 172 confirmed P.1 cases from 22 states. As of March 31, Michigan has also identified 1,468 cases of B.1.1.7 variant infections in 51 Michigan jurisdictions and seven cases of B.1.135 variant infections in six Michigan jurisdictions.
Michigan also ranks second in the country for B.1.1.7 cases, with 1,237 cases, behind only Florida. There are five cases of the B. 1.351 variant.
According to the CDC, the UK variant emerged with a large number of mutations and has been detected in countries around the world.
An early study from scientists in the U.K. found that evidence suggests the B.1.1.7 variant may be associated with an increased risk compared to other variants. There are still more studies that are needed to confirm the findings.
"This variant has a mutation in the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the spike protein at position 501, where the amino acid asparagine (N) has been replaced with tyrosine (Y). The shorthand for this mutation is N501Y," according to the CDC.
Johns Hopkins reports that this variant accounted for 60% of new cases in the U.K. in December, and it's expected to become the dominant strain in the U.S. in the near future.
So to me, it feels like the perfect storm is brewing – we’ve got traditional celebrations and events, a very contagious variant, and several states who’ve done away with mask mandates or have eased up too early on safety measures.
The latest research shows that here in the US, the B.1.1.7 variant is 59% to 74% more transmissible than the original virus. In the UK, where it was first found, the reproduction rate has been estimated as high as 90%.
In South African, the B.1.351 shares some mutations with the B.1.1.7 variant, and was first reported in the U.S. at the end of January.
This variant has made multiple mutations in the spike protein, according to the CDC, but unlike the UK variant, it does not contain deletion at 69/70.
It was first identified in samples in Nelson Mandela Bay, South African dating back to October.
There is no evidence to suggest the variant is more severe, but it is more contagious.
Health officials say the available COVID vaccines work against the new variant.
B.1.427 and B.1.429 variants
The CDC reports that these variants were first detected in California in January 2021 and may have increased transmissibility. There have been cases of these variants reported in Michigan.
This is a branch off of the B.1.1.28 lineage first reported in Japan. It contains three mutations in the spike protein receptor-binding domain: K417T, E484K and N501Y.
The mutations may affect its transmissibility and antigenic profile, which may affect the antibodies generated through natural infection, according to the CDC.
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