A 4th variant, (L432R), of unknown significance, was just noted in CA and there will continue to be more variants found with genome surveillance.
Face masks, social distancing, no travel, will decrease the spread of new strains. The vaccine stops the virus from replicating in the nose, throat, and body and thus prevents disease, particularly severe disease in high-risk individuals. Studies are currently evaluating how much the vaccine prevents the spread of the disease from someone vaccinated and exposed to the virus.
Below are the current emerging variants with significant COVID mutations that are concerning.
B.1.1.7 lineage (a.k.a. 20I/501Y.V1 Variant of Concern (VOC) 202012/01)
This variant was first noted in the UK but has been subsequently found widespread in the United States and in several other countries. This variant has a mutation in the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the spike protein which n increases the already high transmission rate of COVID-19 spreading up to 70% more easily probably due to a mutation in by affecting how the virus enters human cells. Another variant L452R, might be less susceptible to the currently approved vaccines because it is part of the code for making the spike protein that the virus uses to attach to and enter cells and is the target of the current vaccines.
Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that the variant has any impact on the severity of disease or vaccine efficacy.
B.1.351 lineage (a.k.a. 20H/501Y.V2)
Another variant called B.1.351 lineage (a.k.a. 20H/501Y.V2) has been detected in South Africa and Zambia. There is no evidence to suggest that this variant has any impact on disease severity.
There is some evidence to indicate that one of the spike protein mutations, E484K, may affect neutralization by some polyclonal and monoclonal antibodies.
P.1 lineage (a.k.a. 20J/501Y.V3)
Another variant has been detected in Brazil and Japan. The P.1 variant is a branch of the B.1.1.28 lineage that was first reported by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID) in Japan in four travelers from Brazil, sampled during routine screening at Haneda airport outside Tokyo. This variant contains three mutations in the spike protein receptor-binding domain: K417T, E484K, and N501Y.
There is evidence to suggest that some of the mutations in the P.1 variant may affect its transmissibility and antigenic profile, which may affect the ability of antibodies generated through previous natural infection or through vaccination to recognize and neutralize the virus.
I am closely following these developing new variants so stay tuned for more updates.