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article imageNew variant of COVID-19 found in Columbus, Ohio

By Karen Graham     Jan 13, 2021 in Science
Researchers at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center say they have found a new variant of COVID-19 in Columbus. The new variant carries a mutation identical to the U.K. strain.
In a press release from Ohio State Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio, Researchers state that the strain likely arose in a virus strain already present in the United States. The researchers also report the evolution of another U.S. strain that acquired three other gene mutations not previously seen together in SARS-CoV2.
The Wexner Medical Center has been sequencing the COVID-19 genome since March 2020, as a way of monitoring the evolution of the SARS-Cov-2 virus. The new evolving strain, with three variants, was discovered in an Ohio patient in late December 2020 into January 2021, but researchers as yet, do not know the prevalence of the strain in the general population.
"This new Columbus strain has the same genetic backbone as earlier cases we’ve studied, but these three mutations represent a significant evolution,” said study leader Dr. Dan Jones, vice-chair of the division of molecular pathology. “We know this shift didn’t come from the U.K. or South African branches of the virus.”
“The big question is whether these mutations will render vaccines and current therapeutic approaches less effective,” said Peter Mohler, a co-author of the study and chief scientific officer at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center and vice dean for research at the College of Medicine. “At this point, we have no data to believe that these mutations will have any impact on the effectiveness of vaccines now in use.”
The evolving strain found in Columbus is currently named COH.20G/501Y. The Ohio scientists’ findings are currently under review for publication by the online journal BioRxiv.
And like the UK and South Africa variants of the coronavirus, the Columbus strain's mutations affect the spikes that stud the surface of SARS-Cov-2. The spikes enable the virus to attach to and enter human cells. And like the U.K. strain, the mutations in the Columbus strain are likely to make the virus more infectious, making it easier for the virus to pass from person to person.
As we all well know, further study and more data is needed before it is determined that a U.S.-based variant has actually emerged, reports The Hill.
“It’s important that we don’t overreact to this new variant until we obtain additional data,” Peter Mohler, a co-author of the study and chief scientific officer at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center noted. “We need to understand the impact of mutations on transmission of the virus, the prevalence of the strain in the population and whether it has a more significant impact on human health. Further, it is critical that we continue to monitor the evolution of the virus so we can understand the impact of the mutant forms on the design of both diagnostics and therapeutics. It is critical that we make decisions based on the best science.”
More about new variant, Covid19, COH20G501Y, Columbus variant, Ohio state university
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