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Coronavirus strains first detected in California are officially ‘variants of concern,’ CDC says

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Variants can be about 20 percent more transmissible, the CDC said, citing early investigations. Some treatments with Covid-19 may also be less effective against strains. However, the CDC did not say the vaccines would stop working against them.

In laboratory studies, antibodies from vaccinated individuals appear to be less effective in neutralizing strains. But with lower levels of antibodies they may still be enough to protect against Covid-19, especially severe cases. Some immune cells can also help protect against disease, not just antibodies.

Currently, no variant of the coronavirus reaches the highest level of threats from the U.S. government, a “high-consequence variant.” Coronavirus strains that have been shown to significantly reduce vaccine efficacy would fall into this category.

Concerns about antibody treatments

However, health officials are concerned that some treatments may not work so well against variants, which are officially called B.1.427 and B.1.429. Scientists have been closely monitoring strains in California for the past few months.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services stopped shipments of a Covid-19 antibody treatment in California, Nevada, and Arizona, where variants are widely circulated.

The agency cited concerns that the treatment, done by Eli Lilly and Company and called bamlanivimab, may be less effective against strains.

Officials said another Covid-19 therapy by Eli Lilly, a combination of bamlanivimab and another drug, etesevimab, could still be ordered. Early results show that the combination of medications can significantly reduce the risk of hospitalization and death. A different antibody treatment performed by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals was also not affected by the HHS action.

Both therapies are “cocktails” that combine two different laboratory antibodies. This is thought to make them more resistant to emerging coronavirus strains. If one mutation allows the virus to evade one antibody, it may still be susceptible to the other.

Eli Lilly said Tuesday that he is continually monitoring the Covid-19 environment to find variants and testing his therapies against a “wide range of mutations and emerging variants.”

“We have always considered that additional antibodies to Lilly and others will need to be developed to address the evolution of the virus, including emerging variants that may differ by country or even by state,” Eli Lilly said in a statement sent by mail. electronic on CNN. on Tuesday.

“In fact, this is what drove our work on bamlanivimab and etesevimab and continues to underpin our strategy to move forward.”

CNN’s Jen Christensen contributed to this report.

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