Rare variant detected for 1st time in Louisiana

Researchers at LSU Health in Shreveport, La., detected B.1.630 — a rare COVID-19 variant — in two samples from Baton Rouge last week, the academic medical center announced Oct. 13. 

It's the first time the B.1.630 variant has been detected in Louisiana. It was first detected in the U.S. in March and contains the E484Q mutation, which may help the virus escape the immune response and resist antibodies.

So far, the variant has only been sequenced 79 times in the U.S., according to a news release. It has not been assigned a variant classification or Greek alphabet letter, such as the delta or alpha strains, because it accounts for a very small portion of samples sequenced. 

"Even though the predominance of this variant is low, we will continue to keep an eye on it and watch for any changes or if it starts to increase," said Krista Queen, PhD, director of viral genomics and surveillance at LSU Health's Center of Excellence for Emerging Viral Threats. 

Of the 660 samples LSU has tested over the last 35 days, the majority were delta, none were B.1.630 and the remaining 0.3 percent were the alpha variant, Nola.com reports. The samples containing B.1.630 were collected in August.  

"[Delta] just outpaces everyone else," Jeremy Kamil, PhD, an associate professor of microbiology and immunology at LSU Health Shreveport, told the news outlet. "It's like showing up at the Olympics and having to compete against a marathon runner that beats the other racers not just by a minute or two, but by an hour." 

Health officials have previously said they don't anticipate another variant to overpower delta as the predominant strain. 

"There are other variants that are around — certainly not in any manner or form more than a fraction of a percent in this country," Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during an Oct. 13 White House news conference. "So, we don't expect there to be any emergence of a variant that's going to outstrip the capability of delta."


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