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Tue Jan 26, 2021, 02:42 PM

First Case of Brazil P.1 Variant Has Been Found In The U.S. Why That's A Big Deal

'First case of Brazil P.1 variant has been found in the United States: Why that's a big deal.' Daily Kos, Jan. 26, 2021.
- Excerpts -

.. On Monday the Minnesota Department of Health announced the first case of the Brazil P.1 variant in the United States. And there are reasons to be very concerned. First the good news. The person who was detected with the P.1 variant in Minnesota had recently returned from Brazil. That means that this is essentially a primary case from the source. Thatís much better than if this person had only been in contact with someone recently back from Brazil, and miles better than if it had been someone who had no idea how they had acquired this variant.

Still, this is a sobering reminder that the P.1 variant is coming. Not only did the spread of the original coronavirus remind the world of just how ineffective travel bans usually are when trying to restrict the flow of a virus, the situation is made much worse now because the symptoms of the SARS-CoV-2 P.1 variant are essentially the same as those of every other variant. To steal a little Kansas Ö itís just a drop of water in an endless sea. Only genetic screening is likely to pick it out, and that screening is woefully inadequate. Thatís especially true in (say it with me now) the United States, which has lagged behind other developed nations in instituting a system to regularly sample and sequence coronavirus.

Restrictions on travel to South America may slow the spread of the P.1 variant, but right now there are people who have traveled from Brazil, or have just met with someone who traveled from Brazil, who are carrying this variant. When the novel coronavirus first hit the United States, we made the huge mistake of not realizing that it was circulating widely in the population until patients began clogging ICUs. We shouldnít make that mistake again: assume the P.1 variant is here. Assume itís circulating ďin the wild.Ē Now, why is that a concern? Like recent variants in the U.K. and South Africa, the P.1 variant is thought to be more contagious than the original version of the virus in Wuhan, or the version that swept through Europe last spring and has largely dominated cases in the United States.

While the U.K. government recently indicated that the variant first found there may in fact be more deadly than previous versions, thereís no direct evidence that this is the case for P.1. What then makes it so scary? On a genetic basis, the P.1 has a cluster of changes. It shares one change to the spike protein in common with the South African variant, which is thought to make it less sensitive to vaccines (though Moderna recently indicated that their information suggests their vaccine is effective against both the U.K. and South African variants). P.1 also has other changes to the spike protein whose effects are not well understood. The biggest cause of concern is how this variant has behaved in the small Brazilian city of Manaus. That city had already been on of the hardest hit in a nation where their own Trump-a-like, Jair Bolsonaro, has deliberately ignored the threat from the disease, spread disinformation, and flouted expert advice on social distancing. Brazil has the highest rate of COVID-19 deaths anywhere in the world except for (say it with me) the United States...

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- News Release: MDH lab testing confirms nationís first known COVID-19 case associated with Brazil P.1 variant
Minnesota Department of Health sent this bulletin at 01/25/2021 04:03 PM CST

- 'First U.S. case of highly transmissible Brazil coronavirus variant identified in Minnesota,' Wash Post, Jan. 25, 2021,

(WaPo).. Minnesota officials announced Monday they have identified a person infected with a highly transmissible variant of the coronavirus that has been spreading at alarming rates in recent weeks in Brazil. This is the first report in the United States of the P.1 variant, which has been of particular concern to scientists as they have observed the disastrous surge in infections in the Brazilian city of Manaus. One research study published in the journal Science estimated that 76 percent of the Manaus population already had been infected by the coronavirus. That should have put Manaus close to herd immunity. The new surge has raised fears that the P.1 variant has mutations that allow it to evade the human immune system. Evidence to support this hypothesis remains limited..

"This isnít surprising. Itís a very difficult development, but at the same time not unexpected,Ē Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota and an adviser to President Bidenís coronavirus task force, said in an interview. All viruses mutate, and there are countless variants in circulation. The Brazil variant is one of three that have drawn particular global attention. The other two were first identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa, and are known to virologists as B.1.1.7 and B1.351.

Although scientists know quite a bit about the U.K. variant, the Brazil variant ďis probably the one causing the most concern among people watching this,Ē William Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said Monday. ďIt is fair to say that P.1 is the object of very, very serious attention and concern among epidemiologists. We donít know why it has been so successful in Manaus.Ē

The U.K. variant ó already spreading in the United States ó has become the dominant strain in southern England, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said it could become dominant in the United States by some point in March if it outcompetes other strains. Minnesota has detected eight cases involving the U.K. variant, officials said Monday. The South Africa variant has not been identified in the United States...

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