A new viral variant of concern has been identified in New York City, the New York Times reports.
It says that two teams of researchers have homed in on the variant, called B.1.526, which has a mutation that may limit the effectiveness of vaccines. The Times adds that the variant was first noted among samples from the city in November and by mid-February the variant was about a quarter of all samples studied.
According to the Times, research teams from Caltech and Columbia University, the variant harbors a E484K mutation. The Caltech-led team has posted its work uncovering the rise of the variant to BioRxiv, while the Times says the Columbia team has not yet made its work public.
This E484K change has also been found in viral variants spotted in other parts of the world, suggesting it provides the virus an advantage, it adds. It notes that the E484K alteration appears to make the virus less susceptible to vaccines. Michel Nussenzweig, an immunologist at Rockefeller University, who was not part of the research, tells it, though, that people who have been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 would "very likely to be able to fight this variant off," though may fall a little ill.