A new COVID-19 strain is spreading at an alarming rate in New York City, according to two academic studies submitted this week. The research from teams at Caltech and Columbia, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, suggests that the variant known as B.1.526 could dampen the effectiveness of some current vaccine candidates. Below is everything we know about the research, the mutation, and how it may affect the pandemic in New York almost one year after the city was first inundated by the coronavirus.
How common is the new strain at this point?
The variant known as B.1.526 began showing up in samples collected in New York City in November. To chart its rise, Caltech researchers scanned for mutations among hundreds of thousands of COVID genetic sequences in a database known as GISAID. By mid-February, the Caltech team found that B.1.526 cases had risen to 27 percent of viral sequences in the database. Columbia researchers, meanwhile, sequenced 1,142 samples from patients at the university’s hospital and found that 12 percent had a case with E484K, one of the two variants that make up B.1.526.