New mutation of Brazil variant found in Florida

Florida's health department has reported two cases of P.2., a mutation of the more transmissible P.1. coronavirus variant that first emerged in Brazil, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports. 

The infections were reported in a 74-year-old man from Broward County and a 51-year-old woman in Duval County, according to the May 6 report. 

The variant's sequence is slightly different from the P.1. strain, which has been shown to be more transmissible and behind outbreaks among younger people in Brazil. Based on the outbreak in Brazil, there's been evidence that P.1. is more likely to reinfect those who previously recovered from a mild COVID-19 case. 

"We have just two cases in Florida that have the extra mutation, and what that means remains to be seen," Marco Salei, PhD, a professor at the University of Florida's Emerging Pathogens Institute in Gainesville, told the news outlet. "If in a month from now we go from two cases to 500, that will be concerning. 

"We don't know if new mutations are going to make current variants more or less aggressive, which is why we have people around the world actively monitoring them," Dr. Salei added. 

The state has reported the most COVID-19 cases caused by "variants of concern" in the U.S., most commonly B.1.1.7, a strain first detected in the U.K. The P.1. variant is the state's second most common variant, with about 688 cases reported as of May 6, the Sun-Sentinel reports. 

While more research is needed to determine vaccine efficacy against variants, experts say they'll still provide protection against severe infection. 

"We need to keep vaccinating, because even if we don't have reduced efficacy against infection from variants, you will at least get good protection against severe illness,' Dushyantha Jayaweera, MD, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine, told the news outlet. 


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