Photo shows health workers carrying doses of China’s Sinovac CoronaVac vaccine that they will distribute to seniors in their homes as part of a vaccination program for the house-bound elderly in Marica in Rio de Janeiro Brazil. (Photo courtesy of AP/Silvia Izquierdo)
Sourced from the net by Tracy Cabrera
MANAUS, BRAZIL — In recent weeks, two variants of the novel coronavirus or nCoV have become so familiar that you can hear their inscrutable alphanumeric names regularly uttered on television news and their recent prevalence has given cause for alarm since it was learned, according to scientists, that the variants can again infect those who have recovered from Covid-19.
Based on latest data, the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first identified in the United Kingdom, has demonstrated the power to spread far and fast and in South Africa, a mutated variant called B.1.351 has shown its ability to dodge human antibodies and thus blunt the effectiveness of some vaccines.
Scientists have also had their eye on a third concerning variant that arose in Brazil, called P.1, but research had been slower on this variant since its discovery in late December, leaving scientists unsure of just how much to worry about it.
“I’ve been holding my breath,” Broad Institute public health researcher Bronwyn MacInnis enthused.
Now three studies offer a sobering history of P.1’s meteoric rise in the Amazonian city of Manaus and it is said that it likely arose there in November and then fueled a record-breaking spike of coronavirus cases while partly dominating the city because of increased contagiousness, health experts found.
But P.1 also gained the ability to infect some people who had immunity from previous bouts of Covid-19 and laboratory, experiments suggest that the mutated virus could weaken the protective effect of the Chinese vaccine that is now being used in Brazil.
Researchers, though, have cautioned that the new findings on cells in laboratories do not always translate to the real world, even as they’ve only begun to understand P.1’s behavior.
“The findings apply to Manaus, but I don’t know if they apply to other places,” Imperial College London virus expert Nuno Faria, who helped lead much of the new research pointed out.
But even with the mysteries that remain around P.1, Faria said it is a variant to take seriously. “It’s right to be worried about P.1, and this data gives us the reason why,” Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health researcher William Hanage noted.
P.1 is now spreading across the rest of Brazil and has been found in 24 other countries. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recorded six cases in five states: Alaska, Florida, Maryland, Minnesota and Oklahoma.
To reduce the risks of P.1 outbreaks and reinfections, Faria said it was important to double down on every measure we have to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Masks and social distancing can work against P.1. And vaccination can help drive down its transmission and protect those who do get infected from severe disease.
“The ultimate message is that you need to step up all the vaccination efforts as soon as possible. You need to be one step ahead of the virus,” she stressed in support of the ongoing vaccine rollouts in several countries, including the Philippines.
Faria and other researchers are now looking across Brazil to observe P.1’s spread. Dr. Ester Sabino, an infectious disease expert at the University of São Paulo School of Medicine, said that one of the new outbreaks arose in Araraquara, a Brazilian city of 223,000 people that did not have high rates of Covid-19 before P.1 arrived.
For Sabino, the ultimate importance of P.1 is the threat that concerning variants pose when they can pop up anywhere in the world.“It’s just a matter of time and chance,” she concluded. (AI/MTVN)