In cities in Brazil where it originated, the P1 mutant strain has caused devastation with a huge number of COVID-19 cases as well as hospitalization.

Question: What is the P1 mutant strain?

Answer: The COVID-19 virus changes each time it replicates in a cell. Sometimes, these changes make the virus more easy to transmit, more virulent, evade the vaccine or evade antibodies from a previous infection. When the new virus takes on these characteristics we call it a “mutant strain.”

P1 also called the “Brazilian strain” is a mutant strain of of the virus which is highly transmissible and is also able to partially evade the vaccine and evade the antibodies from previous COVID-19 infection. In cities in Brazil where it originated, the P1 mutant strain has caused devastation with a huge number of COVID-19 cases as well as hospitalization.

Should we be concerned about the P1 strain in Shelby County?
Over the past week we have seen 4 cases of the P1 strain in our region. The individuals are from 2 family clusters and one individual had a history of travel. Overall in the USA about 120 cases have been reported. While this may seem small, the numbers can explode due to the P1 viruse’s high transmissibility. We have seen as similar increase in cases from the B117 or the “UK strain.”

What is being done about the P1 mutant strain?
Doctors, hospitals, clinics, laboratories and health departments have formed a collaborative to respond rapidly to these mutant strains. The time from testing to reporting has been less than 24 hours. Subsequently all the positive samples are being sent for sequencing which is being conducted within 1-4 days.

Also the time between reporting to the patient to reporting to the health department is mere few hours. Then the subsequent time for the contact tracing is being reduced with a COVID-19 priority team. In this way patients infected with the mutant strain can be notified, the health department can conduct rapid tracing along with isolation and quarantine of the contacts. In addition, all contacts are being encouraged to be tested and positive tests sequenced.

Does the vaccine work at all against the P1 mutant stain?
Yes. This is a really important point to know. Recent studies show that though the mutant P1 strain may have slightly lower antibody efficacy of the vaccine, there appears to be good T-cell immunity against the P1 mutant strain. Overall the vaccine will be very protective against severe Covid disease, hospitalization and death. As for the B117 mutant strain, also known as the “UK strain” all the vaccines are very efficacious.

What can we do about mutant viruses?
We need to decrease the circulation of the Covid virus in our community. We can do this by getting more people vaccinated, so the virus does not have any place to go to infect others. We need to continue to mask and distance so as to make it difficult for the virus to infect others. We need to do testing and sequencing. If we turn positive for Covid, we need to ask our doctor to do sequencing on our strain to make sure it is not the mutant strain.

If we identify clusters of cases and we test all the associated contacts, we do not give the virus any room to circulate and then it does not have a chance to mutate. Employers, corporations, small businesses and churches all need to be testing and sequencing.

We have to act not just as individuals but as a community.

Source: Commercial Appeal