A more contagious variant of COVID-19 that was first identified in Brazil has reached Dallas, UT Southwestern researchers say.
The variant, dubbed P.1 by scientists, is more resistant to antibodies including those from vaccines, meaning vaccines are less effective against it. Still, researchers say the appearance of the Brazil variant in Dallas underscores the importance of vaccinations as another line of defense against the virus.
Researchers also say the variant’s appearance here is another reason to continue social distancing and wearing masks, even after vaccination.
“These findings reinforce the importance of vaccination – which helps slow the transmission of all types of virus and protects against more severe disease – and continuing to follow safeguards such as masking and distancing,” Jeffrey SoRelle, an assistant instructor of pathology at UT Southwestern, said in a written statement. “Even though the variant is known to evade the immune system, meaning less vaccine efficacy, vaccine protection is far better than having none.”
UT Southwestern has regularly conducted sequencing tests to identify new variants on samples from Dallas County for the last several months. Those tests show that the U.K. variant (B.1.1.7) is found in about 55% of samples. The California (B.1.429), New York (B.1.526), and Brazil variants were found in about 7% of those sampled.
Earlier this year, researchers at the hospital said the U.K. variant could trigger a new surge in cases. Although it is more contagious than other strains that spread in North Texas in 2020, the U.K. variant is not more deadly and is susceptible to the vaccines that are available.
The Brazil variant, which has spread throughout South America, has been described by pathologists there as “rapid and violent.”
It has become the second-most common variant in the U.S. with outbreaks in Massachusetts, Illinois and Florida, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The variant has yet to be studied in depth, but initial studies suggest it could be twice as contagious as other variants.
Internationally, scientists are also tracking a new variant that has emerged in India, where a global daily record of new coronavirus infections was set for the fourth day in a row Sunday, according to The Associated Press.