Alpha variant detected in most of Bahamas’ samples
“So far, there is no evidence of delta variant circulation in The Bahamas”
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The alpha variant of the coronavirus, which is estimated to be between 40 percent and 80 percent more transmissible than the original, has been confirmed to be present in The Bahamas, according to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
During its weekly briefing, PAHO Regional Advisor for Viral and Emerging Diseases Dr Jairo Andres Mendez-Rico was asked whether the organization had confirmed additional variants in The Bahamas since the onset of the pandemic.
Local health professionals have long speculated the presence of additional variants, but had not publicly confirmed based on samples sent to labs.
“In close collaboration, with the Genomic Surveillance Regional Network, several samples from The Bahamas have been sent to the Sequencing Reference Lab in Tu Cruz, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where actually complete genomes have been obtained,” Mendez-Rico said.
“According to the most recent information to be officially verified by the country, but already available, in global databases, the alpha variant of concern had been detected in most of the samples, together with other variants in less proportion, including the iota, which has been classified by WHO (World Health Organization) as a variant of interest.
“So far, there is no evidence of delta variant circulation in The Bahamas; nevertheless, the genomic surveillance should be maintained to timely detect the possible introduction and spread of delta or any other variant.”
According to Johns Hopkins data, the alpha variant was first detected in southern England last year, with patients of alpha facing a greater risk of hospitalization and death.
An Oxford study showed that after adapting to covariables, patients receiving primary care and infected with the alpha strain were more likely to die in 28 days than those infected by other strains of the virus.
The alpha, beta, delta and gamma have been classified as variants of concern, which denotes evidence of an increase in transmissibility; more severe disease, including increased hospitalization or death; and reduced effectiveness of treatments or vaccines.
Variants on interest — those with specific genetic markers that have been associated with changes to receptor binding and reduced ability to be neutralized by vaccines — include epsilon, nextstrain, iota and kappa
According to PAHO Director Dr Carissa Etienne, 47 countries in the region have detected at least one variant of concern.
Meanwhile, 11 have detected all four variants — alpha, beta, gamma and delta.
The Bahamas has recorded 13,781 cases of the virus since last March and 274 deaths.
The nation has administered around 100,000 COVID-19 vaccines, with 39, 366 fully vaccinated — around nine percent of the population.
The COVAX program, of which The Bahamas is a part, will see 3.7 million more vaccine doses sent to countries in the Americas region through the end of July, said PAHO Assistant Director Jarbas Barbosa.