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How the CDC is driving efforts to identify COVID-19 variants faster


Q: Q: A South African variant of the coronavirus was first identified in South Carolina, And reportedly, the two patients had no travel history and no known relationship with each other. Does this mean that the mutation started in South Africa and there was a previously undetected community spread, or a natural, expected sudden that happened to be identified in South Africa before it was identified in the United States? Is it a mutation?

A: Information about various variants is emerging rapidly. There are some things we do know, but there are still gaps in our knowledge. First, as you know, we know that viruses mutate frequently over time.

The· Coronavirus It has actually mutated since it was first identified, but the genetic changes are small and insignificant. However, the latest variants seem to have a significant impact on the ease of virus spread. Laboratories in the United States and around the world have generated thousands of coronavirus gene sequences that have contributed to our understanding of how the virus mutates.

The· Centers for Disease Control and Prevention However, we acknowledge that there are significant gaps in the US representation of coronavirus sequencing surveillance data. This may explain why this variant was first identified elsewhere. Therefore, South African variants, such as those identified in the United Kingdom and Brazil, may already be in the United States and have not been checked.

The CDC is backing surveillance efforts to collaborate with laboratories across the country, which will help identify variants faster. Early awareness helps scientists understand the unique characteristics of the virus, how it spreads, whether the vaccine is defensive, and how they affect virus testing. Helps you understand.

For example, once a South African virus was identified, scientists could determine that it had the following capabilities: Spread more easily But it does not cause worse illness. The identification of this variant also allowed researchers to determine that monoclonal antibodies, one of the treatments for people suffering from the disease, were not very effective.In addition, some vaccine The ones developed have also been shown to have less protection against this variant.

The best strategy to prevent the virus from mutating is to continue the mass vaccination effort and hopefully stay ahead of the virus before it mutates again.

Fernando Urego, MD, is a interim health officer at the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department and a member of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society.

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Contribution Photo / Dr. Fernando Urego


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