Rare COVID-19 variant identified in NC; health officials say they see ‘continued rise in variant occurrences’

Coronavirus

RALEIGH, N.C. — A rare COVID-19 variant has been identified in North Carolina, according to a statement released by MAKO Medical Laboratories on Saturday.

The full statement is provided below:

“MAKO Medical Laboratories, a national leader in COVID-19 testing, released new information regarding its latest identification of COVID-19 variants across six states in which the company conducts COVID testing. Based on the MAKO laboratory team’s recent sequencing of indicated samples, MAKO identified thirty-five variant cases. The predominant variant remains the B 1.1.7 variant, first identified in the United Kingdom, which made up the overwhelming majority of the latest variant cases reported. Additionally, MAKO identified one case of the B.1.351 variant in South Carolina and four Denmark ‘cluster five’ variant cases (3 in Colorado and 1 in North Carolina). A full list of the latest MAKO-identified variant samples by state is provided in the chart below.

Chart provided by Mako Medical
Chart provided by Mako Medical

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as of February 4, 611 B 1.1.7 cases have been identified across thirty-eight states and five B.1.351 across two states (South Carolina and Maryland).

‘As we continue our sequencing of indicated samples, we have found a continued rise in variant occurrences,’ said Steve Hoover, Vice President of Laboratory Operations at MAKO Medical. ‘Over the past week, indicated samples are now returning positive variant cases at a fifty-percent rate, up from a twenty-five percent rate last week. The information we are collecting is shared directly with state health officials to assist in understanding the presence of the variants in communities across the country.’

According to published reports, the B.1.1.7 variant was first detected in the United Kingdom in September and detected in several other countries as of late 2020. The B.1.351 variant emerged independently of B.1.1.7 and was initially detected in early October 2020 in South Africa. The CDC has found that the B.1.351 variant shares some mutations with B.1.1.7, and cases caused by this variant began to be identified in January 2021. Based on the CDC guidance, B.1.1.7 and other variants are highly contagious and could trigger inaccurate PCR and Antigen test results if the laboratory does not test for multiple viral genes causing the virus to spread even further. MAKO’s qPCR testing identifies positive cases based on three different genes; S, N, Orf1ab, including cases of the ‘S gene drop-out,’ which is an indicator for the presence of B.1.1.7.”

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