Healthcare workers at the Medical University of South Carolina will conduct free Covid-19 testing at a location in a parking lot between Edmund’s Oast and Butcher & Bee restaurants in Charleston, South Carolina, USA on Wednesday, January 13, 2021.
Micah Green | Bloomberg | Getty Images
The first US Covid-19 cases of a new, highly contagious strain of the virus, first found in South Africa, were discovered in South Carolina, the state’s Department of Health said Thursday.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control said the strain known as B.1.351 was found in two adults with no travel history. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told South Carolina health officials late Wednesday that a sample tested at LabCorp was variant B.1.351, the health department said Thursday.
The state health laboratory simultaneously identified “a separate case of the same variant” in a sample tested Monday, the South Carolina Department of Health said in a statement. While the burden appears to be highly transferable, it doesn’t appear to make people sick, the health department said.
Mutant strains of the coronavirus have migrated to the United States in the past few weeks. Minnesota health officials on Monday identified the first US case of a similar variant, first discovered in Brazil. The US has also identified more than 300 cases with another strain first found in the UK known as B.1.1.7 current data from the CDC.
Both strains of the virus found in the UK and South Africa share similar mutations, but experts say they evolved separately. While it’s no surprise that the virus is mutating, researchers are quick to figure out what the changes could mean for recently developed life-saving vaccines and treatments for the disease.
The B.1.351 strain appears to be more problematic than the variant found in the UK, said White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, on Wednesday. Fauci said during a press conference that the antibodies induced by the vaccine may be less effective in combating this strain, although “it still sits well in the protective cushion”.
Early Findings published on the preprint server bioRxiv, which have not yet been peer-reviewed, point out that variant B.1.351 can evade the antibodies of some coronavirus treatments and reduce the effectiveness of the currently available vaccine line.
On Monday, Moderna said his vaccine may be less effective against strain B.1.351 and that he was developing a so-called booster shot to protect this variant “out of caution”.
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