The first known case of a new, highly contagious coronavirus variant from Brazil was reported in Minnesota on Monday, according to state public health officials. The mutated coronavirus strain from Brazil is another known variant to be detected in the US, alongside another strain that was first identified in the UK, known as B.1.1.7. Another variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the coronavirus that causes the respiratory disease COVID-19, has also been reported originating from South Africa, B1.351, but infections from the strain have not been reported in the US as of Monday.
“The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) today announced that it’s Public Health Laboratory has found the variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus known as the Brazil P.1 variant in a specimen from a Minnesota resident with recent travel history to Brazil,” state health officials said in a statement Monday. Minnesota officials announced Monday they have identified a person infected with a highly transmissible variant of the coronavirus that has been spreading at alarming rates in recent weeks in Brazil. This is the first report in the United States of the P.1 variant, which has been of particular concern to scientists as they have observed the disastrous surge in infections in the Brazilian city of Manaus. One research study published in the journal Science estimated that 76 percent of the Manaus population already had been infected by the coronavirus. That should have put Manaus close to herd immunity. The new surge has raised fears that the P.1 variant has mutations that allow it to evade the human immune system. Evidence to support this hypothesis remains limited.
Regeneron’s COVID-19 Antibody Cocktail for ‘Passive Vaccination’
As the demand for COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna, Pfizer and AstraZeneca continues to outstrip supply and alternative vaccines struggle to make it out of the pipeline, the world is desperate for new ways to end the pandemic. Regeneron says it’s offering a potential solution. The New York-based biotech released preliminary data from an ongoing phase 3 trial of its antibody cocktail REGEN-COV (previously REGN-COV2) in people at high risk of contracting COVID-19 because of exposure to family members with the disease. The results justify using the drug for “passive vaccination,” the company said.
REGEN-COV was 100% effective at preventing symptoms of COVID-19 in the trial as compared to placebo, the company announced. Passive vaccination with the drug slashed the overall rate of infection by half. All the infections that did occur among trial participants on the drug were asymptomatic, lasted no more than one week and showed a “short duration” of the viral shedding that can drive the illness to other people, Regeneron said.