According to a new study, researchers have identified seven new variants that appear to originate from the United States
MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota Researchers have discovered seven new coronavirus variants in the United States with similar mutations.
The study went live on Sunday as a pre-print and has yet to be peer reviewed.
It all started with Jeremy Kamil, associate professor of microbiology and immunology at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center Shreveport.
Kamil had sequenced COVID-19 test samples and uploaded a bunch of data to the international data-sharing initiative, GISAID.
RELATED: British Study Finds New COVID-19 Variant Deadlier
Soon he heard other scientists talking about the same mutation. According to Kamil, the variants all seem to originate from the United States.
“When we see the same mutation appear over and over again, what it tells us is that there might be a reason the virus continues to select that particular mutation,” said Emma Hodcroft, molecular epidemiologist at the ‘University of Bern in Switzerland. and one of the main co-authors of the study.
As first reported by The New York Times, researchers have discovered several lines of variants of the SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein affecting amino acid position 677.
As noted in the study, the spike protein plays an essential role in the entry of the host cell.
We have found the same # SARSCoV2 mutation at position 677 in Spike that has occurred at least 7 times in US-focused clusters in recent months. What did we see and what does it mean?
New pre-print now! With @DDomman @macroliter @macroliter and more! Https: //t.co/zwv0mToBC7
– Dr Emma Hodcroft (@ firefoxx66) February 15, 2021
“There is no reason for people to worry about these variants. We have no evidence that they are more transmissible and we certainly have no evidence that, for example, they could affect vaccines or that they are more clinically dangerous in any way, ”Hodcroft said.
But as we hear about more contagious variants, like the one first found in the UK, the researchers said it’s important to continue to sequence and share this data with other scientists around the world.
Kamil said a lack of federal funding has put the United States behind other countries when it comes to sequencing.
“It is really important to continue sequencing and monitoring and also simply that people around the world, not just the United States, quickly share their sequence results on the GISAID global database because without it we don’t know these variants from Brazil or the South. Africa is happening. In fact, if you stop sharing data, you also stop these sequencing activities, because there is no attention to feed and stimulate them. The United States is sort of behind in this area and we need to catch up quickly, ”Kamil said.
RELATED: Study: British Coronavirus Variant Doubles Every 10 Days in United States
The study found seven lines with less than 1% of the test samples. This means that there could be other variations that we don’t know of.
“I always like to say, ‘If you go down to your kitchen in the middle of the night for a glass of water and turn on the light and you’ve seen a cockroach run away, there’s probably a lot more.’ Sequencing is like turning on the light, ”Kamil said.
The researchers also took a different approach to naming these new variants. The World Health Organization is calling for new names for COVID variants to avoid the stigma attached to countries where these variants are first detected. To avoid this, Hodcroft said he named the new variants after American birds.
While the researchers said the public shouldn’t be alarmed by the new variants, these studies help highlight what may be important for the virus.
“It could unlock all kinds of information about how the virus is evolving and if there is anything we can do about it. Can we use this information to impact our own changes and make sure the virus is not spread as easily? “So we’re continuing to do a lot of work on this,” Hodcroft said. “The next step will be to go to the lab and actually test if we see if these mutations change the virus. But until we have proof that it does, I think it’s really important that people don’t panic and of course we will. keep everyone informed of our research as it progresses. ”
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