What Do I Need to Know About the New Strain of COVID-19?

What Do I Need to Know About the New Strain of COVID-19? title=
What Do I Need to Know About the New Strain of COVID-19?
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By Dr. Henning Ansorg, M.D., FACP, Health Officer County of Santa Barbara, Department of Public Health

You may have heard about a new strain of COVID-19 (B117) that is more easily transmitted than the standard form of the virus. People who are exposed to this mutation of the virus are more likely to become infected. The first known U.S. case, in a Colorado National Guardsman in his 20s, was reported on December 30, 2020. In California, six cases of potentially more infectious new coronavirus variants were detected during the first week of the new year. 

Fortunately, there is no evidence that this new COVID variant has a higher fatality rate or causes more severe illness than the currently predominant strain, according to the CDC. Robert Cyril Bollinger, Jr, M.D., M.P.H. at Johns Hopkins Medicine, sums it up: “Although the mutated coronavirus may spread faster from person to person, it does not appear any more likely to cause severe disease or death.  We are not seeing any indication that the new strain is more virulent or dangerous in terms of causing more severe COVID-19 disease. For a virus to survive, it may be more advantageous for it to evolve so that it spreads more easily. On the other hand, viruses don’t get the chance to reproduce if they mutate to become deadly. If we get too sick or die from a particular virus, we can’t transmit it.”

Our currently authorized vaccines will protect people against the new strain. Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) said that the variant “doesn’t seem to evade the protection that’s afforded by the antibodies that are induced by vaccines.”

Stuart Ray, M.D., Vice Chair of Medicine for Data Integrity and Analytics at Johns Hopkins Medicine says that human behavior is important. “The more people who are infected, the more chances there are for a mutation to occur. Limiting the spread of the virus through maintaining COVID-19 safeguards (mask wearing, physical distancing and avoidance of gatherings and travel) give the virus fewer chances to change.”

For more information about local public health orders, guidance, and vaccine distribution in Santa Barbara County, please visit: https://publichealthsbc.org/

Source Information:

Cal Matters

Johns Hopkins

Dr. Henning Ansorg, M.D., FACP is  a graduate of Justus-Liebig-University Medical School Giessen, Germany. He completed Residency training in Munich, Germany and Tucson, AZ and is board certified in Family Practice (Germany) and Internal Medicine (USA). Dr. Ansorg is a Diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine and a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and is on the Medical Staff at Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara. He has many years of experience in different clinical settings including 10 years of Private Practice and Urgent Care in Munich, Germany, as well as 11 years of Internal Medicine/Geriatrics in Arizona, as well as 4 years at the Santa Barbara County Health Care Center. Dr. Ansorg has served as Public Health Officer for Santa Barbara County since April 2019.

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Basicinfo805 Jan 22, 2021 06:43 PM
What Do I Need to Know About the New Strain of COVID-19?

Boris is a true blow hard. As a scientist I'd say please ignore that fellow. I have no idea what Chemsuperfreak was even trying to say.

I'm with Ginger, Sandy and especially Nonbidenary.

Bottom line - let's all try and get vaccinated

805Surfer Jan 24, 2021 12:34 PM
What Do I Need to Know About the New Strain of COVID-19?

I support info delivered in manners such that may appear to be too advanced scientifically for some readers at first hand. There are always opportunities for clarification upon Q&A. If we dismiss those assessments that require further review for comprehension then we may be willing to be influenced by those who have been given status. The facts are some people have studied in depth the disciplines as to which discussions are based on. We should not discard expert analysis because we might have to engage in education for comprehension. We should appreciate that we have many backgrounds and knowledge to have the ability to analyze the info that comes to us in the media and scientific journals. I support the style submitted by CSF. Usually science appears dry at the molecular and biochemical level, yet it is not to those that comprehend it, or want to.

ChemicalSuperFreak Jan 22, 2021 08:07 PM
What Do I Need to Know About the New Strain of COVID-19?

Hi Basic, here's the shorter, easier version: B117 sticks better to the outside of our cells, which is why it may be more infectious. Further, B117 may interfere with our cell's ability to show parts of the virus to our immune system, making the infections more difficult to fight and possibly more deadly.

SBTownie Jan 22, 2021 07:21 PM
What Do I Need to Know About the New Strain of COVID-19?

Maybe reserve your rage for someone other than me, Ginger. You came at me with 3 paragraphs on getting vaccinated and how I should not write mistruths on EdHat and should preface everything I say with "this is my opinion"? WTH? I literally said NOTHING about not getting vaccinated, and it's shoddy logic to think I'm advocating for vaccine avoidance because I warned that this strain may be more deadly. That is not what follows. The assumption - if there is even one to be made, which is deeply questionable - is that if one thinks a variant is more deadly, then one should support vaccination. Absolute total failure to read what I wrote (or what anyone wrote, literally where does one person in the article or in the comments oppose vaccination or do anything other than not mention it or specifically support it) and respond accordingly. Spare me next time.

ginger1 Jan 22, 2021 07:02 PM
What Do I Need to Know About the New Strain of COVID-19?

There ya go! My reason for posting is to support the rationale for vaccination, to encourage people to read and understand the science, not the politics, hype and the oftentimes irrational the fear around coronavirus. That all. Pretty simple, eh?

ChemicalSuperFreak Jan 23, 2021 10:31 AM
What Do I Need to Know About the New Strain of COVID-19?

How do you add paragraph breaks? I've tried in the past, but when I hit send the formatting in my comments gets ignored. I do not see formatting tools, so maybe there's a key combination used to make a paragraph break?

a-1611393436 Jan 23, 2021 01:17 AM
What Do I Need to Know About the New Strain of COVID-19?

Could you at least include some paragraph breaks, ChemSuper? Especially as you're the author.

Finished that long, issue-dedicated pandemic New Yorker article. Never mind politics, this man and his colleagues are medical/intellectual superheroes.

ChemicalSuperFreak Jan 22, 2021 08:37 PM
What Do I Need to Know About the New Strain of COVID-19?

Thanks Ahchooo! Although it's complex, this is what's going on with the new COVID strain that everyone seems to be talking about. I'm glad at least one person finds some value in the information.

Ahchooo Jan 22, 2021 08:01 PM
What Do I Need to Know About the New Strain of COVID-19?

I disagree with 6:32. I enjoy Chem’s scientific info. I know better than to blindly trust info in Edhat comments, but I at least gain insight into what I might want to research. If you don’t like Chem’s virus seminar, you can easily skip it.

ChemicalSuperFreak Jan 22, 2021 05:27 PM
What Do I Need to Know About the New Strain of COVID-19?

The new variant, known as lineage B.1.1.7., it's actually a cluster of 23 separate mutations in the nucleotide coding sequence of the virus. The mutations are defined as being in the nucleotide sequence of the viral RNA. 17 of these nucleotide base pair changes (mutations) are of consequence and result in changes to the amino acid sequence of the viral proteins. 6 of these nucleotide changes (mutations) do not alter the final amino acid sequence of the viral proteins because there is some redundancy in the genetic code that results in some tolerance for mutations. A few of these amino acid changes are understood. The N501Y mutation changes the amino acid asparagine to the amino acid tyrosine at position 501 in the viral spike protein, which is the protein the virus uses to infect host cells. This single change causes an increase in affinity of the viral spike protein to the host cell ACE2 receptor on the cell surface. As the binding of the spike protein to the ACE2 receptor is how the virus infects our cells, any mutation that increase the binding affinity of the spike protein to the ACE2 receptor will increase the likelihood of infections that result from that interaction. This is probably one of reasons that B117 is spreading more quickly. Other mutations that result in amino acid changes include deletions of amino acids, as opposed to substitutions. The majority of the mutations seen in B117 are in the viral spike protein, though mutations have been found in three other viral proteins: ORF1ab, ORF8, and N. These mutations should not affect the effectiveness of the vaccines, as I believe these new COVID vaccines are designed to target multiple epitopes. Epitopes are small amino acid sequences found in the foreign proteins (antigens), such as the spike protein, and these epitopes are what are recognized by antibodies. A mutation that changes one amino acid in a single epitope would (hopefully) not allow the viral protein to escape an immune response that has been trained on several epitopes. As far as being more deadly, it’s too early to say yet. ORF8, which is one of the mutated viral proteins, may play a role in downregulating the expression of MHC I proteins in the host cell. The MHC I protein is part of the immune system and displays fragments of antigens (foreign proteins) on their surface for cytotoxic T cells (white blood cells) to recognize. If the mutation in ORF8 causes this protein to restrain the activity of MHC I, this could negatively impact the immune system and make it more difficult to fight off the virus.

ChemicalSuperFreak Jan 23, 2021 03:42 PM
What Do I Need to Know About the New Strain of COVID-19?

BABYCAKES: The UC Davis article is neither incorrect or contradicts what I wrote. In fact, the Davis article acknowledges all of the mutations in the B117 variant I outlined. For the purpose of replying to your comment I’ll point out that the mutations in question were discovered by sequencing the RNA genome of the B117 variant, in its complete form. This is not what the Davis article is about. The Davis article is about the molecular diagnostics: detection of the B117 variant using PCR and a combination of two of several possible molecular targets (viral genes).

The PCR assay employs a DNA primer, which is a short piece of DNA that is meant to match the exact DNA sequence of something you’re looking for. During PCR, the DNA primer will find its DNA target, they will come together and an enzyme will amplify the DNA using the primer as a starting point. If the sequence of the material in question doesn’t match the sequence of the primer, you will not get DNA amplification and the diagnostic result will be negative (not detected). Possible reasons for the absence of a match are: Possibility 1) absence of the material altogether; or Possibility 2) significant difference in the target sequence from the primer sequence do to mutation of the target.

The Davis article is saying that some viral genetic material becomes less abundant and less detectable during the course of infection, the E-gene RNA for example. They’re just pointing out that a lack of PCR amplification may not necessarily be due to a mutation in the target gene (Possibility 2), which might suggest the genetic material came from someone infected by the B117 variant. They’re cautioning that the negative result due to a failure to amplify one of the two targets may just be the result of a low amount of that gene at the time the sample was taken

Babycakes Jan 23, 2021 12:03 PM
What Do I Need to Know About the New Strain of COVID-19?

CSF: Much of what you have written is correct, but I don't think the following tells the whole story: "The majority of the mutations seen in B117 are in the viral spike protein, though mutations have been found in three other viral proteins: ORF1ab, ORF8, and N. "

I am certainly not an expert, but I read in a recent article that stated: "The same logic applies if encountering assays outside of UC Davis Health that relies on detecting ORF8 or S with other genetic targets (e.g., ORF1ab and/or N), thus not detecting ORF8 or S gene while detecting other targets does not necessarily indicate the patient is infected by the new SARS-CoV-2 variant."

Maybe the article is incorrect, but seems to contradict what you've posted.

chico berkeley Jan 23, 2021 09:46 AM
What Do I Need to Know About the New Strain of COVID-19?

Thank you CSF-When you don't cut and paste as so many pseudo scientists here do, you will confuse them.
I don't have to be a PHD to realize that "reading articles" from sources the they agree politically with gives them their "science".
You keep it up please.
They would rather baffle and argue with BS than take the time to read, much less understand what you are saying.

NonBidenary Jan 22, 2021 05:05 PM
What Do I Need to Know About the New Strain of COVID-19?

What I need to know is that it’s a bunch of nonsense designed to keep people scared. Viruses (virii) mutate. This one is no more deadly and the vaccine works against it. Move on.

ginger1 Jan 22, 2021 04:48 PM
What Do I Need to Know About the New Strain of COVID-19?

SBTOWNIE Nothing you wrote is correct.

1. Boris Johnson's announcement was based on a single report from one not peer-reviewed report from NERVTAG research group, and exactly NOT FACT, by their own admission: "Some preliminary analyses have been undertaken which show that there *may* be an increase in the severity of disease associated with this new variant, B.1.1.7. There are some important limitations to the data on which these analyses are based. A relatively small number of people were included in the analyses." The percentage number were invented. Try reading the research before you up your panic score.

2. We do sequence and track virus variants. There are currently at least three circulating here. This is a NORMAL process with viruses. FYI, viruses that mutate to become more deadly die off all that more quickly because it runs out of hosts faster. But that's another story.

3. This story has already been pulled from the media source but I'm sure it's still circulating on Facebook and among the fear and panic crowd:
"Dr. Fauci says new data shows Covid vaccines appear to be less effective against some new strains.
Early data shows that the Covid-19 vaccines on the market may not be as effective in guarding against more contagious strains of the coronavirus." [CNBC}

Except that the headline is completely wrong. He DID NOT say that and the ACTUAL study had absolutely nothing to do with mRNA vaccine induced antibody response. That was not studied. The study, pre-print and not peer reviewed specifically cited that *convalescent plasma antibody treatment" is less effective against the South African variant. Not any other variant.

The take-home message is don't be fooled. There's a ton of garbage and mis-information out there. Please don't write stuff that you cannot validate. If you do, write: this is my opinion. What I wrote is not my opinion, it is scientific facts.

SBTownie Jan 22, 2021 06:51 PM
What Do I Need to Know About the New Strain of COVID-19?

You may want to look up the meanings of certain words, Ginger. For example, I said "the US has virtually no surveillance on this variant." Virtually does not mean none. It means almost, or nearly. I have read that LESS THAN 1% of all tests are sequenced in the US, and at present B117 constitutes very few cases in terms of which strains they are finding. The UK sequences MORE tests, has had B117 since September, and has millions of B117 cases. Therefore it is 100% factual to say that in comparison to the UK - where the "early data" are coming out of - we have "virtually no surveillance" on this compared to others who KNOW MORE ABOUT IT THAN WE DO.

SBTownie Jan 22, 2021 06:47 PM
What Do I Need to Know About the New Strain of COVID-19?

Why are you so combative, Ginger? Not to mention, coming at me with rebuttals to things I never said. Such as that the vaccine wouldn't work? Did I ever say anything like that? In fact it is you who is incorrect. The Washington Post says "the US is behind 43 other nations in terms of sequencing" with regards to volume and cataloguing. Did I say we DON'T sequence? NO. Did I say it's NOT NORMAL for viruses to mutate? NO. Jeeze. Half of the keyboard warriors on EdHat literally write outraged non-sequiturs because they're caught up in their ragefest they can't even accomplish basic reading comprehension. The only point you made that in any way, shape, or form correctly rebuts anything I said is adding the nuance that yes, you are correct - Boris did not say it is "100% certifiably true that this strain is X percentage more deadly." I concede that. The "EARLY DATA" indicate. If you seriously think the US has as much data on B117 as the UK to compare and refute this, you need to research better. The other stuff flowing from your fingertips is just a waste of everyone's time as you're either trying to argue with me about things I never said, or are poorly informed and have a bloated sense of what America accomplishes with regard to sequencing versus the rest of the developed world.

a-1611369068 Jan 22, 2021 06:31 PM
What Do I Need to Know About the New Strain of COVID-19?

Ginger 1, thank you for this response. Why would anyone listen to Boris anyway. He is still only a British version of Trump with better manners. And he did not say what the reports have headlined.

SBTownie Jan 22, 2021 11:42 AM
What Do I Need to Know About the New Strain of COVID-19?

This is already out of date. Boris Johnson delivered a press conference today to announce that in fact the data indicate B117 is 30-40% more deadly than previous strains. The US has virtually no surveillance on this variant; it is newer here and we sequence and track far fewer cases. It is widespread now for several months in the UK, becoming the dominant strain and the data on mortality is very bad news. This is not just affecting the eldest. The example of an age group Boris gave for example was of increased deaths in 60s something men.

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