BUFFALO, N.Y. — The COVID-19 pandemic has taken many twists and turns over the past few months due to different variants, with the delta variant now the current dominant strain.
Researchers at the University at Buffalo say nearly all Western New Yorkers who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last month have come in contact with the delta variant.
“The delta variant is very much in Western New York," Jennifer Surtees, associate professor of biochemistry at University at Buffalo, said.
Surtees is part of a research team at UB that has been studying COVID-19. The team has been sequencing the genome, or reading the instructions, of the positive samples of the virus. She says in May, only 1% of cases the team sequenced were delta variant.
"In July, 97%, or 29 out of 30 samples that we’ve sequenced, are the delta variant," Surtees said.
The goal is to understand the virus’ genetic fingerprint. Surtees says this data shows just how transmissible the delta variant is, which has made it the current dominant variant.
When you are infected with the delta variant, you have about 1,000 more virus in your body as you would have had with the original version of SARS-CoV-2.
Surtees says looking at the virus’ past can help predict its future. There was only one case Surtees and her team sequenced in July that was not of the delta variant. It is a variant called B. 1621. She says it has a number of mutations that are concerning that are in common with other variants.
"So it’s one that we don’t have a lot of data for, but it’s one that we’re definitely keeping an eye on," Surtees said.
Surtees stresses that getting vaccinated, socially distancing and wearing masks are all ways to prevent getting infected, preventing mutations from occurring inside the body and variants from forming.
Researchers will sequence 100 more samples this coming week.