Ohio researchers said on Wednesday they had identified two variants of the coronavirus possibly originating in the United States.
One of the new strains has been identified in a single patient in the state, “so researchers don’t yet know the prevalence of the strain in the population,” according to the Ohio State Medical Center Wexner where the researchers first identified the variants.
This new variant “carries a mutation identical to the British strain, but it likely appeared in a viral strain already present in the United States,” officials said.
In addition, the researchers also discovered what has been described as an “evolutionary strain with three new mutations” which became “the dominant Columbus virus for a period of three weeks at the end of December 2020 and into January”.
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“This new Columbus strain has the same genetic backbone as the previous cases we studied, but these three mutations represent a significant evolution,” said Dr Dan Jones, vice president of the molecular pathology division and senior author of the ‘study, in a statement. “We know this change did not come from the British or South African branches of the virus.”
The Columbus variant was named COH.20G / 501Y, they said.
The results were published as the BioRxiv preprint server and have not yet been peer reviewed.
Researchers at the medical center identified the new strains by sequencing the genome of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which they have been doing since the start of the pandemic in an attempt to keep tabs on “the evolution of the virus”, have they declared. .
“Like the British strain, the mutations detected in the two viruses affect the spikes that stud the surface of SARS-Cov-2. The spikes allow the virus to attach and enter human cells. Like the British strain, mutations in the Columbus strain are likely to make the virus more infectious, making it easier to pass the virus from person to person, ”according to university researchers.
Experts have expressed concerns that the mutations could affect the effectiveness of existing COVID-19 vaccines and therapies. However, “we have no data to believe that these mutations will have an impact on the effectiveness of the vaccines currently in use,” said Peter Mohler, study co-author and scientific director of the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center. and associate dean of research at the College of Medicine, in a statement.
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“It is important that we do not overreact to this new variant until we get additional data,” Mohler continued. “We need to understand the impact of mutations on virus transmission, the prevalence of the strain in the population and whether it has a more significant impact on human health.”
Monitoring the evolution of the virus will be key to understanding how mutations affect the way doctors diagnose and treat the virus, he said.
“Viruses mutate and evolve naturally over time, but the changes seen in the past two months have been more significant than in the early months of the pandemic,” Jones added.