The mutant coronavirus strain first identified in the United Kingdom remains at a low level in the United States, but is doubling its reach roughly every 10 days, according to a study researchers published Sunday.
The study bolstered modeling from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which predicted last month that the more contagious variety could be the dominant strain in the US by March.
The US still has time to take steps to slow down the new virus strain, the researchers wrote, but they warned that without “ decisive and immediate public health action, ” the variant is likely to have devastating consequences for COVID-19 mortality and morbidity in the USA. US in a few months. “
The research, funded in part by the CDC and the National Institutes of Health, as well as the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, is posted on medRxiv, a preprint server, and has not yet been peer-reviewed.
The new strain of coronavirus, also known as B.1.1.7, has spread rapidly through the UK and has become the dominant strain in that country, which is by some measures hardest hit in Europe.
Health officials have said that existing vaccines are likely to work against new strains, although their effectiveness may have been somewhat reduced.
The study found that there are “relatively low” amounts of B.1.1.7. currently in the US, but that, given its rapid spread, “is almost certainly destined to become the dominant SARS-CoV-2 line by March 2021.”
According to the study, the new strain was responsible for 3.6% of the coronavirus cases in the US in the last week of January.
The researchers noted that tracking the nationwide distribution of the strain is complicated by the lack of a national genomics surveillance program like the one in the UK, Denmark and other countries.
They wrote that they had “relatively robust” estimates for California and Florida, but that data outside of those states was limited.
The virus growth rate varied in the two states, with B.1.1.7. seems to be spreading a little more slowly in California. The study authors wrote that the strain doubled approximately every 12.2 days in California, 9.1 days in Florida, and 9.8 days nationally.
The study supports the conclusion that the new strain is already spreading through “significant community transmission.”
The authors suggest the virus was introduced into the country through international travel and spread through domestic travel as millions of Americans traversed the country around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year in the fall and winter.
The authors also found that the variant grew slightly more slowly than in European countries, a fact that they believe requires further investigation, but may be the result of the scarcity of current data or other factors, including ‘competition from other, more transferable’ variants . .
Other strains of coronavirus of concern have been discovered in South Africa and elsewhere.
The researchers warned that their findings “reinforce the need” for robust surveillance in the US of potential new and emerging coronavirus variants.
“Because US laboratories only sequence a small subset of SARS-CoV-2 samples, the true sequence diversity of SARS-CoV-2 in this country is still unknown,” they wrote.
“The more established surveillance programs in other countries have issued important warnings about worrying variants that could affect the US, with B.1.1.7 representing just one variant demonstrating the potential for exponential growth,” she added.
“ Only with consistent, unbiased, scale-based sequencing that spans all geographic and demographic populations, including those that are often under-represented, along with continued international scientific collaborations and sharing of open data, will we be able to identify new variants generated during the COVID -19 come forward to accurately assess and monitor. pandemic, ‘the researchers wrote.
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