An international team of researchers has found evidence suggesting that the P.1 coronavirus variant that was first seen in parts of Brazil may be up to twice as transmissible as prior strains. In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes their work involving the study of the variant and what they found.
Via molecular clock analysis, the researchers determined that the virus had 17 identifiable mutations and that three spike protein mutations (N501Y, E484K and K417T) were particularly worrisome because they appeared to allow the virus to bind more tightly to human cells, and in some cases, to aid in evading antibodies. They also found evidence that the variant can evade an immune response to prior strains of the virus.
The P.1 SARS-CoV-2 variant was first seen in Manaus, the capital of the state of Amazonas in Brazil. Initial research suggested the virus arose late last year and began spreading in November. It quickly became the dominant strain and infected nearly 70 per cent of the people in the city. After variant infections rose in Manaus, the P 1 variant soon spread throughout Brazil, and then to other countries – to date, it has been found in 37 countries, the ScienceX reported.
Further, simulating the virus to determine how its abilities have changed since it mutated showed the variant to be from 1.7 to 2.4 times more transmissible than previous strains of the virus. However, the team researchers were unable to determine if the increase was due to the virus persisting longer in the body or from an increase in viral load. Also, they were not able to determine if the new variant makes people sicker or if it is deadlier.