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Brazil variant shown to infect some coronavirus survivors with immunity

Laboratory tests have found that the P.1 coronavirus variant that originated in Brazil may infect some people who gained immunity from previous COVID-19 infections.

The New York Times reports that the revelation was made during research into the rapid outbreak of the P.1 strain in the city of Manaus, Brazil, where it has dominated due to it being more contagious.

Nuno Faria, virologist at Imperial College London and a researcher who helped lead much of the P.1. studies, told the Times that the recent findings applied to Manaus. He said he was uncertain if they were relevant in other locations.

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Faria and his colleagues observed that Manaus appeared to have gotten over the worst of the pandemic after peaking in April of last year, only for cases to surge again at the end of 2020. The rise in cases led the researchers to suspect a new variant had arisen.

After researching variant genomes and medical records, the researchers concluded that the P.1 variant impacted Manaus due to its mutations, estimating it is between 1.4 and 2.2 times more infectious than other coronavirus strains.

The researchers confirmed their conclusion by mixing P.1 viruses with antibodies obtained from people who had the coronavirus last year and found that the antibodies were six times less effective at stopping the P.1 coronavirus.

The authors caution that the study, which has not been published in a medical journal, has only been conducted on cells in labs and not on people.

According to Faria, the risk of P.1 outbreaks can be reduced by doubling down existing virus mitigation methods including masks, social distancing and vaccinations.

“The ultimate message is that you need to step up all the vaccination efforts as soon as possible,” Faria said. “You need to be one step ahead of the virus.”

The Brazilian strain has already made it way to dozens of other countries including the U.S., which has reported cases of the P.1 variant in Alaska, Florida, Maryland, Minnesota and Oklahoma.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 cases of the P.1 variant have been reported in the U.S. so far.