Certain genetic variants of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) are of substantial concern because they may be more transmissible or detrimentally alter the pandemic course and disease features in individual patients. SARS-CoV-2 genome sequences from 12,476 patients in the Houston Methodist health care system diagnosed from January 1 through May 31, 2021 are reported here. Prevalence of the B.1.1.7 (Alpha) variant increased rapidly and caused 63% to 90% of new cases in the latter half of May. Eleven B.1.1.7 genomes had an E484K replacement in spike protein, a change also identified in other SARS-CoV-2 lineages. Compared with non–B.1.1.7-infected patients, individuals with B.1.1.7 had a significantly lower cycle threshold (a proxy for higher virus load) and significantly higher hospitalization rate. Other variants [eg, B.1.429 and B.1.427 (Epsilon), P.1 (Gamma), P.2 (Zeta), and R.1] also increased rapidly, although the magnitude was less than that in B.1.1.7. Twenty-two patients infected with B.1.617.1 (Kappa) or B.1.617.2 (Delta) variants had a high rate of hospitalization. Breakthrough cases (n = 207) in fully vaccinated patients were caused by a heterogeneous array of virus genotypes, including many not currently designated variants of interest or concern. In the aggregate, this study delineates the trajectory of SARS-CoV-2 variants circulating in a major metropolitan area, documents B.1.1.7 as the major cause of new cases in Houston, TX, and heralds the arrival of B.1.617 variants in the metroplex.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine