Doctors Say These Are the 4 COVID Strains You Need to Know
These are the strains that could pose new challenges to stopping the spread of COVID.
Just when we thought we were beginning to get a handle on COVID with the vaccines, multiple new strains of the virus began sprouting up all over the world. As each new variant is detected, experts have to study them and identify how they might be different from the previously dominant strain of COVID. Keep reading for a breakdown of the four different strains doctors want you to know about, along with the different threats that they pose. And for more on where one strain is spreading, The U.K. COVID Strain Is Now in These 20 States.
The newest COVID variant to come to light is believed to have originated in California. A Jan. 18 study from Cedars-Sinai said the new variant was found in over one-third of Los Angeles' COVID patients. Cedars-Sinai says this strain is "believed to be in part responsible for the dramatic increase in cases over the last two months." More studies need to be done to understand the transmissibility of this variant. And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.
The variant that's assumed to have originated in the U.K. was the first strain to cause alarm among experts. "It is not any more or less severe. It doesn't cause different rates of hospitalization or mortality," Gregory Armstrong, who directs the Office of Advanced Molecular Detection at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told CNN. But while this strain may not make you any sicker than the COVID strain we're familiar with, it is significantly more contagious.
The CDC warned that this strain could worsen the spread of the virus, as it did in the U.K., because it's proven to be more transmissible. This means that if you happen to inhale viral particles from this strain, those particles will have an easier time entering and infecting your cells. According to CNN, when the variant first began running rampant in the U.K., it infected 50 percent more people than the previously dominant strain of COVID.
During a Jan. 11 interview with Chicago-based WGN Radio 720, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), warned Americans not to take the U.K. strain lightly. "If a virus is more transmissible and gets more people sick, among those, some of those people are going to get hospitalized, and some of those people are going to die," he said. "I don't think we should take lightly the fact that it is leading to much more efficient infections." And for more insight from the nation's leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Fauci Just Warned of These 2 "More Ominous" COVID Strains.
South Africa strain
The biggest concerns about the strain of COVID that originated in South Africa are not solely its transmissibility but also its potential to evade vaccines. A key mutation of this variant appears to alter the part of the spike protein that helps the virus attach to cells. This could ultimately aid the strain in dodging the effects of coronavirus vaccines, according to CNN. "There is more concern about immune escape" with this strain, Armstrong said, but many experts think the vaccine will ultimately work against it.
While this strain has not yet been detected in the U.S., Fauci told Newsweek on Jan. 5 that "sooner or later it will get here." This strain may also make patients more severely sick. Virologist Sunday Omilabu, director of the Centre for Human and Zoonotic Virology at the Lagos University College of Medicine and Teaching Hospital, told Al Jazeera, "We have more people coming down with severe signs and symptoms." And for more on staying safe from coronavirus, The CDC Warns Against Using These 6 Face Masks.
Two new strains of note have popped up in Brazil recently. One variant is more widespread, found in almost half of the people in one survey done in Manaus, Brazil, according to the CDC. "The emergence of this variant raises concerns of a potential increase in transmissibility or propensity for SARS-CoV-2 re-infection of individuals," the CDC said.
The other Brazilian variant made its way to the U.K. and was found in at least 11 people, according to CNN. Neither of these strains has been detected in the U.S. yet. And for more on the future of the pandemic, The Moderna CEO Just Made This Scary Prediction About COVID.