UT Southwestern Detects First Reported Indian COVID-19 Variant In North Texas

Researchers said the COVID-19 variant "B.1.617" appears to be more contagious than older coronavirus variants, though research shows current COVID-19 vaccines are effective against it.

Video Transcript

- As America emerges from the worst of the pandemic, the situation in India continues to be dire. And now, we have learned two cases of the COVID variant, first diagnosed in-- or discovered, I should say-- in India, are now here in North Texas. So what does that all mean. Brooke Katz spoke to some doctors, today, about the concern around this mutation. What are they telling you?

BROOKE KATZ: Well, Doug, the Dallas County Public Health Department says the two individuals who tested positive for the Indian variant are children under the age of 12 who were unvaccinated and had no travel history. Researchers say they are getting concerned about this variant.

JEFFREY SORELLE: I don't think anything's going to surprise me anymore with the coronavirus epidemic. It seems as though everything is everywhere.

BROOKE KATZ: Dr. Jeffrey SoRelle, researcher at the UT Southwestern COVID lab, says he was expecting the variant in people who traveled. The presence of this variant in North Texas concerns him. It's devastated India and overwhelmed the healthcare system in recent weeks.

JEFFREY SORELLE: But it's much more transmissible than many of the other variants.

BROOKE KATZ: The variant has been labeled a variant of concern by the World Health Organization. Dr. SoRelle believes it's only a matter of time before it will be a concern, here, in the US.

JEFFREY SORELLE: We've had it under control because of the amount of vaccines we're getting, but if we have something that's more transmissible, there's still a large amount of population that's not vaccinated and could be more susceptible to this new variant.

BROOKE KATZ: Right now, data shows that the variant is responding well to the vaccine.

JEFFREY SORELLE: We don't know of any specific treatments that have been tested against the Indian variant, but at least vaccines appear, in the test tube and in the lab, to be effective against the variant.

BROOKE KATZ: The CEO of BioNTech, the company partnering with Pfizer to make the vaccine, says its vaccine is 70% to 75% effective against the Indian variant. Dr. SoRelle says, to stop the virus, we've got to stop the spread.

JEFFREY SORELLE: The more times it's able to replicate, the more chances it has for a mutation, and that's where variants come from.

BROOKE KATZ: And Dr. SoRelle says vaccines will continue to help reduce transmission, and the burden on the health care system. By the way, Tarrant County also reporting at least five cases of that Indian variant, one confirmed case, four presumed cases.