Ohio researchers announced Wednesday that they have identified two coronavirus variants that are likely native to the United States.
One of the new strains was identified in a single patient in the state, “so researchers do not yet know the prevalence of the strain in the population,” according to Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, where researchers first identified the variants.
This new variant “carries a mutation that is identical to the British strain, but it probably originated in a virus strain that already exists in the United States,” officials said.
In addition, researchers also found what was described as an “evolving strain with three new mutations”
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“This new Columbus strain has the same genetic backbone as previous cases we have studied, but these three mutations represent a significant development,” said Dr. Dan Jones, vice president of the division of molecular pathology and lead study author, in a statement. “We know this shift did not come from the British or South African branches of the virus.”
The Columbus variant has been called COH.20G / 501Y, they said.
The results were published as pre-print server BioRxiv and have not yet been peer-reviewed.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 an eye on “virus development,” they said. .
“Like the British strain, mutations detected in both viruses affect spines that study the surface of SARS-Cov-2. The spikes allow the virus to bind to and enter human cells. Like the British strain, “The mutations in the Columbus strain are likely to make the virus more contagious, making it easier for the virus to pass from person to person,” according to university researchers.
Experts expressed concern that the mutations could affect the efficacy of existing COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutic agents. However, “we have no data to believe that these mutations will have any effect on the efficacy of vaccines currently in use,” said Peter Mohler, a co-author of the study and chief scientific officer at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center and vice president. 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 further data,” Mohler continued. “We need to understand the impact of mutations on the transmission of the virus, the prevalence of the strain in the population, and whether it has a more significant impact on human health.”
Monitoring the virus’ development will be critical to understanding how the mutations affect how doctors diagnose and treat the virus, he said.
“Viruses mutate and develop naturally over time, but the changes seen in the last two months have been more pronounced than in the first months of the pandemic,” Jones added.