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New variant of COVID-19 virus discovered in Columbus

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New variant of COVID-19 virus discovered in Columbus

Vials of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine Scientists at The Ohio State University have discovered a new variant of SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The new variant carries a mutation identical to the U.K. strain, but it likely arose in a virus strain already present in the United States. The College of Medicine researchers also report the evolution of another U.S. strain that acquired three other gene mutations not previously seen together in SARS-CoV-2.

These findings are under review for publication and appear in BioRxiv as a pre-print.

The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center has been sequencing the genome of SARS-Cov-2 viruses in patients with COVID-19 since March 2020 in order to monitor the evolution of the virus. The new variant was discovered in one patient from Ohio, so researchers do not yet know the prevalence of the strain in the population.

In contrast, the evolving strain with the three new mutations has become the dominant virus in Columbus during a three-week period in late December 2020 and January.

“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.”

Like the U.K. strain, both newly detected mutations affect the spikes that stud the surface of SARS-Cov-2. The spikes enable the virus to attach to and enter human cells. Also like the U.K. strain, the mutations in the Columbus strain are likely to make the virus more infectious, making it easier for the […]

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