American Daily Digest

Covid variant that originated in Japan should be watched closely, expert says

Covid variant that originated in Japan has been identified at Kentucky nursing home where it has infected 45 residents as experts warn it may spread more quickly and be vaccine resistant

Covid variant R.1 is a variant ‘to watch’, according to disease expert Dr HaseltineHe claimed it had established a foothold in both Japan and the USBut figures show it has been displaced in both countries by the Delta variant 



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A Covid variant first identified in Japan has been spotted at a Kentucky nursing home where 45 vaccinated residents caught Covid. 

Former Harvard Medical School professor Dr William Haseltine said the outbreak suggested the mutant strain — dubbed R.1 — was one ‘to watch’.

But the outbreak appears to have been reported by the CDC in April, and data suggests the mutant strain has now all but disappeared in the US.

Dr Haseltine told Forbes: ‘It has established a foothold in both Japan and the United States.

‘In addition to several mutations notably in the spike protein in common with variants of concern, R.1 has a set of unique mutations that may confer additional advantage in transmission, replication and immune suppression.’ 

In the US there have been 2,000 cases to date, with the last being detected at the start of August. 

It made up around one per cent of infections in the country in April, but this dropped to almost zero per cent in July amid the spread of the Delta variant. 

In the UK there have been 20 cases, with the last spotted four months ago.

Neither the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the UK-based Public Health England have listed the variant as of concern or under investigation. 

The above graph shows the percentage of Covid infections that were the R.1 variant in the US since April last year. It reveals the variant was behind one per cent of cases in April, but that this has now dropped to zero per cent

The above graph shows the proportion of Covid infections that were sparked by the R.1 variant globally. It reveals that the variant has almost disappeared amid the spread of Delta

Covid variant R.1 was first spotted by scientists in Japan in February.

It has sparked more than 10,000 infections to date and spread to 37 countries. But it was last spotted more than a month ago.

The mutant strain carries mutations that scientists fear could make it better able to evade vaccines, including E484K also seen on the South African ‘Beta’ variant.

It is also thought to be more transmissible than the original virus because it carries mutations that were also seen on the British ‘Alpha’ variant.

It comes after the FDA approved booster vaccines for adults aged over 65 and for other vulnerable groups.

The agency said that concerns over the infectious Delta variant meant it was necessary to roll-out the shots.

They are available for anyone who has received their last dose at least six months ago.

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