While US health officials warn most about the #Delta variant (#B16172, first seen in India) other #coronavirus variants are also gaining ground in parts of the US, among them the #Gamma variant, also known as #P1, which spread fast to dominate in Brazil.
Coronavirus variants are what keep Dr. Scott Lindquist, an epidemiologist for Washington state, up at night.
"I have got to be honest -- last thing I think about before I go to bed are the variants and the first thing I think about in the morning are the variants," Lindquist told a briefing this week.
And while federal health officials are warning most about the Delta variant -- the B.1.617.2 strain first seen in India -- other variants are also gaining ground in parts of the US.
One of them is the Gamma variant, also known as P.1, which spread fast to dominate in Brazil.
"I am very concerned about the P.1," Lindquist said.
"We've seen it across the state of course, but we're seeing it in some outbreaks in eastern Washington, we're seeing it in counties with low vaccination rates, and I'm very concerned the role that this P.1 is going to take. It has increased its percentage in this state."
So far, none of the most common variants show much ability to evade the effects of full vaccination. But several have shown the ability, both in laboratories and in real life, to re-infect people who recovered from natural coronavirus infection and to infect people who have been only partly vaccinated.
But fully vaccinated people had a strong and broad immune response that should take care of the variants, vaccine experts have agreed.
Gamma is classified as a variant of concern by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A variant of concern shows evidence of increased transmissibility, more severe disease, lower antibody effectiveness, lower treatment effectiveness, or diagnostic issues, according to the CDC.
According to the CDC's own variant tracker, Gamma has been detected in every state where the CDC has variant information. Per most recent tracking data, Gamma prevalence is greater than 15% in multiple regions, including the West and Northeast.
Increasing frequency in multiple states
Dr. Philip Chan, consultant medical director with the Rhode Island Department of Health, said while the predominant strain in the state is still the Alpha variant--also known as B.1.1.7 and first identified in the United Kingdom--the Gamma variant is common in Rhode Island.
"If you look at trends over time, what we've seen is about for the last few weeks about 20% of all variants have been the Gamma variant and that's remained stable for the last few weeks," he told CNN.
According to the California Department of Public Health, Gamma accounted for 10% of all sequenced specimens in May, and "has been increasing in all regions of California."
"Public health officials are concerned about the Gamma variant and several other variants of concern, including Alpha and Delta, that have been increasing in frequency in California and may have moderately decreased response to some antibody treatments or be more transmissible," the department told CNN in an email.
In Illinois, Gamma accounts for more than 25% of sequenced variants, according to state health data. According to NowCast data from the US Department of Health and Human Services, Gamma prevalence in the US has steadily increased since mid-March.
Gamma: more resistant to vaccines, antibody treatments
Current evidence suggests Gamma can resist the effects of antibody treatments.
In nine states, HHS has halted the distribution of two monoclonal antibody treatments from Eli Lilly and Co, citing reduced effectiveness against both the Gamma and Delta variants.
"Results from in vitro assays that are used to assess the susceptibility of viral variants to particular monoclonal antibodies suggest that bamlanivimab and etesevimab administered together are not active against either the P.1 (Gamma) or B.1.351 (Beta) variants," HHS said on Wednesday.
According to the CDC, the Gamma variant exhibits "significantly reduced susceptibility" to the Lilly treatment, and reduced neutralization from post-infection and post-vaccine immunity.
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