'Houston on track to be dominated' by UK variant as cases double weekly

Cases of the U.K. B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant in Houston are doubling weekly, increasing rapidly to 648 cases in mid-March from 305 just a week earlier, according to findings from Houston Methodist.

The findings are from 8,857 virus genomes sequenced from patients testing positive with COVID-19 in the first two months of 2021, which account for 94 percent of cases at Houston Methodist.

"We've estimated the doubling time for U.K. variant B.1.1.7 to be approximately seven days, which has Houston on track to be dominated by this variant within the next four to six weeks," said James Musser, MD, PhD, chair of the Department of Pathology and Genomic Medicine at Houston Methodist.  

Dr. Musser cautions that present figures lag or underestimate the true presence of the variant. However, he noted that virus variants first discovered in South Africa and Brazil, B.1.351 and P.1, respectively, have not increased. There is something preferential to the U.K. B.1.1.7 variant that is conducive to it spreading across the Houston metropolitan area, according to Dr. Musser.

The study findings were posted on the preprint server medRxiv and have yet to be peer reviewed. 


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