A COVID-19 variant first discovered in Brazil and believed to be more transmissible was confirmed in Chicago on Friday, according to city and state health officials.
The P.1 variant was first identified in travelers from Brazil during routine airport screening in Tokyo, Japan, in early January but has subsequently been identified in several other countries.
The case in Chicago “was identified by the Pathogen Genomics research team at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine through sequencing analysis of a COVID-19 specimen. A follow-up investigation by CDPH found that a household contact of this individual had also recently been unwell with COVID-19, but neither this individual nor their household contacts reported travel outside Illinois,” according to a release from the Illinois Department of Public Health.
“Evidence suggests that this variant can spread more easily than most currently circulating strains of COVID-19, and there is some evidence that some mutations in the P.1 variant may affect the ability of antibodies [from natural infection or vaccination] to recognize and neutralize the virus, but additional studies are needed.”
IDPH also updated its variant case tracking totals on Friday afternoon. There are now 85 confirmed cases of the B.1.1.7 variant first detected in the United Kingdom, and two cases of the B.1.351 variant first detected in South Africa.
IDPH has been sending COVID-19 positive respiratory samples to Southern Illinois University – Carbondale for sequencing since May of 2020. SIU has sequenced more than 1,000 samples looking for variants of concern as identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and new emerging variants. Working with CDC, CDPH, university research labs, and various reference labs, IDPH is coordinating testing efforts, determining sampling strategies, and working to consolidate data into a centralized source. Laboratories are being asked to submit a limited number of samples to IDPH laboratories weekly for surveillance testing to monitor virus mutation within Illinois.