The B.1.1.7 Coronavirus Variant

February 11, 2021

The B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant was first identified in the UK this past fall, emerging in Colorado soon thereafter. According to the CDC, there have been upwards of 1,000 cases caused by the B.1.1.7 variant across 34 states as of February 9, 2021. California and Florida, two states that have taken vastly different approaches for containing the novel coronavirus, have both reported the highest numbers of B.1.1.7 cases. 

While a preliminary report by the UK government’s NERVT advisory group indicates “there is a realistic possibility that…B.1.1.7 is associated with an increased risk of death,” research has yet to officially state if the B.1.1.7 variant causes more severe COVID symptoms (1). That being said, this variant has the potential to become the dominant strain of SARS-CoV-2, as its mutation is associated with a higher transmission rate than its predecessors. According to preliminary data, the B.1.1.7 variant is doubling in frequency every 9-10 days across the U.S. Moderna and Pfizer have released preliminary data verifying that their vaccines are likely to neutralize the B.1.1.7 variant; however, the efficacy rate may be negatively affected.

For regularly updated information and news on coronavirus mutations and variants, check out this comprehensive tracker created by The New York Times.

Scanning electron microscope image of SARS-CoV-2 emerging from the surface of cells.Scanning electron microscope image of SARS-CoV-2. Credit: NIAID-RML