Possible New Strain of Coronavirus Quickly Dominates Ohio City, Scientists Say
Variant that apparently evolved in the U.S. would add to growing global list of emerging strains
A mutated strain of the coronavirus thought to have originated in the United States has been discovered in Ohio, according to preliminary results of an ongoing analysis of changes in the virus. Over a recent three-week period, the newly evolved variant appears to have become the dominant version of the virus spreading in Columbus, the state’s capital, suggesting that like other variants emerging around the world, it is more contagious than the original.
Details of the findings of this and also a second new variant, announced January 13 in a press release, have not yet been published in a scientific journal and so should be considered preliminary. But other infectious disease experts have previously said they expect more emerging new strains, also called variants, of SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19.
Bruce Vanderhoff, chief medical officer of the Ohio Department of Health, told CNBC he’s “not surprised” by the discovery.
More research is needed to confirm the findings, however. Adam Lauring, MD, a molecular biologist who studies genetics and evolution of viruses at the University of Michigan, has seen a print of the research paper. The number of samples in the study are not large enough to conclude that the virus is dominant in Columbus, Lauring says in a tweet.
Faster spread would mean more deaths
Already, a mutated strain that emerged in the U.K., named B.1.1.17, is circulating in several U.S. states. Because it’s known to be about 50% more contagious than the original strain, scientists have said B.1.1.17 could become the dominant strain across America within a couple months, risking far higher rates of infections and then more deaths that would follow. Other variants and mutations have evolved independently in South Africa, Brazil, and elsewhere.
When a new strain proves more infectious than its cousins, all other things being equal it can take over in the population where it’s circulating and dominate the spread to new victims, crowding out competing…