Here's the difference between the U.K. & South African coronavirus variants reported in Michigan

There are emerging variants of COVID-19 – like in the U.K. and South Africa -  which the lab is now in the process of getting, to begin testing on those.
Posted at 10:46 AM, Mar 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-10 15:47:31-05

(WXYZ) — The first case of the South African COVID-19 variant B. 1.351 has been identified in Michigan, nearly two months after the U.K. variant was first identified in Michigan.

According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the B. 1.351 variant was identified in a male child in Jackson County.

Related: Here's how close the US is to a possible COVID-19 surge, expert warns

As of Tuesday, there are 562 cases of the B.1.1.7. variant in Michigan, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. They both are more contagious compared to the original SARS-CoV-2 virus that originally caused the global pandemic.

“We are concerned about the discovery of another variant in Michigan, although it was not unexpected,” MDHHS Chief Medical Executie Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said in a release. “We continue to urge Michiganders to follow a research-based approach by wearing their masks properly, socially distancing, avoiding crowds, washing their hands often, and making a plan to get the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine once it is their turn. We all have a personal responsibility to slow the spread of COVID-19 and end this pandemic as quickly as possible.”

Details and differences of the variants are below.


According to the CDC, the UK variant emerged with a large number of mutations and has been detected in countries around the world.

An early study from scientists in the U.K. found that evidence suggests the B.1.1.7 variant may be associated with an increased risk compared to other variants. There are still more studies that are needed to confirm the findings.

"This variant has a mutation in the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the spike protein at position 501, where the amino acid asparagine (N) has been replaced with tyrosine (Y). The shorthand for this mutation is N501Y," according to the CDC.

Johns Hopkins reports that this variant accounted for 60% of new cases in the U.K. in December, and it's expected to become the dominant strain in the U.S. in the near future.

Four weeks ago B.1.1.7 made up only 1 to 4% of the total virus cases…now it’s 30 to 40% of the cases. And if we look at what happened in Europe, they had a huge surge once the variant cases hit the 50% mark.

So to me, it feels like the perfect storm is brewing – we’ve got traditional celebrations and events, a very contagious variant, and several states who’ve done away with mask mandates or have eased up too early on safety measures.

The latest research shows that here in the US, the B.1.1.7 variant is 59% to 74% more transmissible than the original virus. In the UK, where it was first found, the reproduction rate has been estimated as high as 90%.

B. 1.351

In South African, the B.1.351 shares some mutations with the B.1.1.7 variant, and was first reported in the U.S. at the end of January.

This variant has made multiple mutations in the spike protein, according to the CDC, but unlike the UK variant, it does not contain deletion at 69/70.

It was first identified in samples in Nelson Mandela Bay, South African dating back to October.

There is no evidence to suggest the variant is more severe, but it is more contagious.

Health officials say the available COVID vaccines work against the new variant.

Below is a map of where the B.1.1.7 variant (blue) and B.1.351 variant (red) have been confirmed in the state. The yellow marker is the reported number of cases from the Michigan Department of Corrections.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.

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