Health officials warned the new variant has unique mutations that may affect the effectiveness of antibodies, generated through a previous COVID-19 infection or through a vaccination.
The variant – called P.1 – was first reported in late January by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Japan after four travelers from Brazil were screened at an airport outside of Tokyo.
The variant has 17 unique mutations, including three in the virus’ spiked protein, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Earlier this month, the CDC reported 10 cases of the P.1 variant in five U.S. states: Alaska, Florida, Oklahoma, Minnesota and Maryland. The agency has designated it a "variant of concern."