Fauci Says U.S. Wants Samples of U.K. Virus Strain for Testing

The U.S. is trying to obtain samples of the mutant strain of SARS-CoV-2 that’s arisen in the U.K. for testing at the National Institutes of Health, according to Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious-disease doctor.

“We at the NIH are in communication with our colleagues in the U.K. to try and get the isolate to work with,” Fauci said in a taped interview that will air on Bloomberg Television. “We need to take this seriously and we need to investigate it much further.”

The variant doesn’t appear to make infected people more ill than other strains, and vaccine makers have said they believe their shots will raise immunity against it. Nevertheless, several countries have cut off transportation links to the U.K. to minimize the risk of spread, although France has reinstated the flow of shipments.

Fauci Says U.S. Wants Samples of U.K. Virus Strain for Testing

Viruses mutate constantly, and concern has been rising about this strain, which British health officials have said spreads more easily than earlier versions. South Africa has also seen the emergence of a variant that’s been linked to increased spread.

While it hasn’t yet been detected in the U.S., the U.K. variant may already be in the country, Fauci said. It’s just as likely that variants are emerging in the U.S., given the high levels of infection and transmission.

“There’s enough opportunity in our own country for these mutations to occur, that I wouldn’t be surprised as we continue to look for them, we’re going to see some similar mutations,” he said. When viruses like SARS-CoV2 replicate “rapidly and extensively, you will get mutants.”

Vaccines have begun rolling out in the U.S., and the country needs to increase levels of acceptance so that more of society will be immune, which will help stem transmission. As part of an effort to increase confidence, Fauci received the vaccine Tuesday.

He said he experienced some aches and soreness, but overall feels fine.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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