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Why you may need to watch the R.1 variant

Experts identified a new variant — titled R.1 — that has connections to other COVID-19 variants

This 2020 electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles.
This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases — Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows the SARS-CoV-2 virus particles that cause COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab.
NIAID-RML via Associated Press

Experts have discovered a new coronavirus variant in a Kentucky nursing home, and it appears to be a unique variant worth keeping an eye on.

What is the R.1 variant?

Per Forbes, the new variant — named R.1 — is related to the original coronavirus strain. It was originally discovered in Japan and has infected more than 10,000 people globally, according to recent data.

  • The variant was discovered in a Kentucky nursing home, and many of the patients were fully vaccinated.
  • The variant has a mutation that can lead to “increased resistance to antibodies in convalescent sera and to neutralizing monoclonal antibodies,” according to Forbes. This means the variant could evade blood from previous COVID-19 survivors and the antibodies among those who are vaccinated and those who have been infected with the novel coronavirus.

Should you worry about the R.1 variant?

Experts recommend keeping an eye on this variant as it spreads in the U.S. and Japan.

  • “R.1 is a variant to watch,” according to Forbes. “It has established a foothold in both Japan and the United States. In addition to several mutations notably in the spike and nucleocapsid protein in common with variants of concern, R.1 has a set of unique mutations that may confer an additional advantage in transmission, replication, and immune suppression.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first discovered the variant in Kentucky in April. However, the CDC study said that vaccinated residents were 87% less likely to have symptomatic COVID-19 cases through the variant compared to the unvaccinated.

The R.1 variant is not listed on the CDC’s list of variants of concern or interest.

What about the A.23.1 COVID variant?

Earlier in September, details of the A.23.1 variant were published in the medical journal Nature. The variant — which has not been deemed a variant of concern or interest by the World Health Organization — has a mutation that shows it’s of a different origin compared to the alpha, beta, gamma, delta and mu COVID-19 variants, as I wrote for the Deseret News.