Three Cases of New York COVID Strain Discovered in Israel

Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati
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A member of Magen David Adom conducts a coronavirus test in Jerusalem, Sunday.
A member of Magen David Adom conducts a coronavirus test in Jerusalem, Sunday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati

Three cases of the New York strain of COVID-19 have been detected in Israel, all in one family, the Health Ministry said. 

Researchers that have examined the new strain found that it includes the same mutation found in the strain that originated in South Africa, which may make the virus more resilient against the vaccine. It has spread mainly within the United States.

According to a U.S. research team, the New York COVID strain was first discovered in samples collected in the city in November. As of mid-February, they said, it has already appeared in one in four samples collected in New York City, according to the GISAID open-access genomic database.

One of the researchers, from the California Institute of Technology, discovered the new strain when he scanned hundreds of thousands of genetic sequences in GISAID in search of new COVID variants. "There was a repeated pattern that I hadn't seen before, and it was concentrated in the New York area," said Anthony West, Jr., a member of the research team.

West and his peers found two new strains of the virus. One had a mutation that was also found in South Africa and Brazil, named E484K, which experts believe helps the virus partially overcome immunity to it. The other COVID strain that may have an effect on the way the virus clings to the body's cells.

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The second research team, from Columbia University, chose a different approach. Its members examined 1,142 samples from patients at the university's medical center, and found that 12 percent of them were infected with the COVID strain with the E484K mutation. Their findings showed that the patients with this strain were an average of six years older than other coronavirus patients, and that the probability that they would require hospitalization for the disease was higher.

A number of earlier studies found that COVID strains that include the E484K mutation are more resilient against the vaccines than the original strain. According to Andrew Reed, an evolutionary microbiologist from Pennsylvania State University, "these strains are slightly less controllable through vaccination, but not noticeably so."  

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