Researchers have discovered seven variants of the coronavirus across the United States, according to a study. It is not yet known whether these variations are more transmissible than the original strain. “There is clearly something going on with this mutation,” said a virologist. Visit Insider’s Business section for more stories.
Researchers have found seven variants of the coronavirus in the United States, with a mutation in the same genetic letter, according to a new study.
They have been discovered in states across the country and it is not yet known whether the strains are more contagious, but researchers are concerned.
“There is clearly something going on with this mutation,” Jeremy Kamil, virologist at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center at Shreveport, told The New York Times.
Kamil, the co-author of the new study, said he was sequencing coronavirus samples when he noticed the new variants, which have mutations on the same amino acid. Scientists are worried that the mutations could potentially facilitate entry of the virus into human cells, the Times reported.
Kamil said the viruses were all from the same lineage, and after entering the genome into an online database used by other scientists, he learned that there were scientists in New Mexico who also found the same variant with the same mutation.
The line Kamil detected dates back to December 1, and samples from New Mexico are from October, but it is not known when these variants actually started. Samples from across the country have been found with this variant, but with limited genomic sequencing, it is difficult to understand the prevalence of these mutated viruses.
Read more: What’s the next step for COVID-19 vaccines? Here is the latest of 11 major programs.
“I would be very hesitant to give an original location for any of these lines at this time,” Emma Hodcroft, an epidemiologist at the University of Bern and co-author of the new study, told The Times.
The study has not yet been peer reviewed. Experts told The Times more experiments are needed to assess whether these mutations have an impact on transmission or morbidity.
Other more contagious variants have been discovered elsewhere. A recent analysis found that a variant first discovered in the UK, known as B.1.1.7, is 35% to 45% more transmissible than other strains spreading in the US , while a new assessment by UK government scientists has found that the same variant could be 30% to 70% more deadly than the original coronavirus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicted it would be the most common variant of the coronavirus by March.
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