A new variant of the COVID-19 virus has been identified at a Kentucky nursing home, where it infected 45 residents and workers, many of whom were vaccinated.
The R.1 variant originated in Japan, and contains dangerous mutations that can improve “transmission, replication, and immune suppression,” a scientist wrote in Forbes Monday.
There are already more than 10,000 entries of the R.1 variant in a database used by researchers to track genomic material, infectious disease expert Dr. William Haseltine said.
The variant shares the highly infectious D614G mutation that is present in other variants fueling new surges of the coronavirus, according to the doctor.
“R.1 is a variant to watch. It has established a foothold in both Japan and the United States,” Haseltine wrote.
The news comes days after the FDA-approved booster vaccination shots for adults over 65 or anyone in poor health. The shots would be available six months after a second dose.
The agency said more research is needed about the effectiveness of booster shots against the Delta variant before it can green-light their use for the general public.
Nearly 4.7 million people worldwide, including 675,000 Americans, have been killed by COVID-19, according to health officials.