Following the news last week that COVID-19 “California” variants had been detected in samples from Erie County residents, the Erie County Department of Health said additional variants of concern were found in specimens sequenced this week by the University at Buffalo’s New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences.
UB Associate Professor of Biochemistry Jennifer A. Surtees, Ph.D., co-directs the Genome, Environment and Microbiome Center of Excellence. She and her team reported the following results to ECDOH on Thursday:
•“California” variants of concern: 27 samples with B.1.427; one sample with B.1.429
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these variants show 20% increased transmission.
•“United Kingdom” variant of concern: 12 samples with B.1.1.7
According to the CDC, B.1.1.7 shows 50% increased transmission and likely increased disease severity based on hospitalizations and case fatality rates.
Additionally, two samples included B.1.526, a variant of interest originating in New York state.
Of the 138 samples that provided usable sequencing data, 42 samples – or nearly one third – included variants. These samples were collected from Erie County residents in February and March.
“These new data appear to confirm what we have suspected – that COVID-19 variants of concern with higher transmission rates are circulating in Erie County,” Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein said. “We believe these variants are contributing to our increasing daily new case totals and the resulting rise in hospitalizations. Consequently, this is not the time to let down our guard against COVID-19. Mask up. Limit gathering sizes. Postpone travel. Stay home if you feel ill. And most importantly, get a diagnostic test if you have any COVID-19 symptoms or feel you have had an exposure.”
Following quality control checks, data for these samples will be uploaded to GISAID, a global science initiative that provides open-access to genomic data of viruses.
The UB team began sequencing additional specimens collected by ECDOH and Kaleida Health this week.