A new study has pointed to the rapidly increasing cases of a more contagious coronavirus in the United States, with a possibility of significant community transmission happening already, CNN reported.
The study added that although the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the UK was currently at a relatively low frequency in the US, it was doubling every week and a half, in line with observations in other countries. The report has estimated the transmissibility 35-45% higher than strains seen earlier in the US, and it was doubling every 10 days.
New US Study Points To Increasing Cases Of The More Contagious UK Variant
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had last month estimated the virus variant, B.1.1.7, to be 50% more transmissible based on its modeling and predicted that it could be the predominant strain in the United States by March.
In the study’s preprint, which had not yet been peer-reviewed or published, its study showed that the US was on a similar trajectory as other countries where B.1.1.7 had rapidly become the dominant SARS-CoV-2 variant, calling for immediate and decisive action to minimize COVID-19 morbidity and mortality.
Apart from the groups of cases in California, Florida, and Georgia, many B.1.1.7 cases in the United States did not report recent international travel, according to the report, which suggested that significant community transmission of the B.1.1.7 variant was already ongoing across the US.
The CNN report goes on to say that the new study posted Sunday on the preprint server MedRxiv, was a collaboration of researchers from several institutions and the company Helix, one of the several commercial, academic, and public health labs sharing information on variants with the CDC.
According to the paper, only a small subset of coronavirus samples was being sequenced; therefore, it was unclear what variants were circulating in the country. It added, in the absence of immediate and decisive public health action, new, more transmissible variants would likely have devastating consequences to COVID-19 mortality and morbidity in the US in a few months.
According to Helix President Dr. James Lu, who spoke to CNN last week, the company had been tracking evidence that cases of B.1.1.7 were rising and were not only a product of increased genetic sequencing across the country.
Lu added that the rate of growth in Florida and Southern California looked a lot like the type of growth seen earlier in the UK and Denmark, where B.1.1.7 became the predominant variant strain pretty quickly.
He added it was not clear whether the strain would be prevented from gaining a foothold in places where it was not already circulating by the pace of vaccination in the United States.
He added the researchers were in a race between the vaccine and the new strains.
Dr Anthony Fauci had suggested that the US was not vaccinating people fast enough to stay ahead of new variants last week. He told CNN that it could affect the vaccine’s efforts to bring cases down.
He said, if the variants and the mutations were to come and start becoming dominant, that would obviate some of the vaccine’s effects.
The US had seen over 610 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant across 33 states, according to CDC, with most seen in Florida and California. The first case’s announcement came in December 29, but the earliest known cases stretched back earlier. The new study which analyzed the situation suggested the B.1.1.7 variant arrived in the United States as early as late November 2020.
The World Health Organization said last week that the variant had been seen in at least 80 countries and territories around the globe.
The United States had also seen five cases in two states of the B.1.351 variant, first identified in South Africa and two cases of the P.1 variant first identified in Brazil, in one state.