There may be two new variants of COVID-19 circulating that have originated in America. Researchers say the new strains appear to spread more easily than the original virus and one of them has now become the dominant strain in Columbus, Ohio. The Ohio State University team said that one of the new mutations of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is identical to the variant found in the U.K.
According to CNBC, the so-called “Columbus strain,” is unique to the U.S., and carries three mutations not found in SARS-CoV-2, the researchers stated in a press release.
“This new Columbus strain has the same genetic backbone as earlier cases we’ve studied, but these three new mutations represent a significant evolution,” said study leader Dr. Dan Jones, vice chair of the division of molecular biology, according to the press release. “We know this shift didn’t come from the U.K. or South African branches of the virus.”
Experts at the university said that the big question is if these mutations will render COVID-19 vaccines and therapies less effective. On Monday, the CEO of pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, Dave Ricks, expressed concern that his firm’s antibody treatment would not be effective against the South African strain of the coronavirus.
Ricks said that the new COVID-19 variant identified in South Africa “could evade our medicines.” He added that his company’s antibody drug called bamlanivimab could still tackle the spike protein on the mutation found in the U.K. but explained that the “South African variant has more dramatic mutations to that spike protein which is the target” of the antibody drugs, according to CNBC.
That is also the concern of the Ohio State researchers who discovered the American variants. How will the new strains react to vaccines and antibody therapies?
“Viruses naturally mutate and evolve over time,” said Jones. “But the changes we have seen in the last two months have been more prominent than in the first months of the pandemic.”
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