Seven new strains of coronavirus identified in the United States: they are all highly contagious
Seven new strains of coronavirus have emerged in the US since last summer, according to a new study, and scientists fear they may be more infectious. New York Post.
The new variants - each named after a bird - have been detailed in a 25-page medical study published online on February 14 and not yet peer-reviewed.
The strains are similar in that they each mutate the 677th amino acid of the coronavirus, found on a spike that the virus uses to attach itself to healthy cells. There are concerns that the changes could make the strains more infectious.
"This spine site is important because of its proximity to the site of virulence," Vaughn Cooper, one of the study's senior authors and director of the University of Pittsburgh Center for Evolutionary Biology and Medicine, told CNN.
The mutations have been discovered by scientists across the country conducting genetic sequencing of positive COVID-19 tests. Here's what we know about them:
- Robin 1 "is found in more than 1 states in the United States, but predominantly in the Midwest." It was first discovered in August.
- Robin 2 was first detected in a sample taken in early October in Alabama. Accordingly, it is most common in the Southeast.
- Pelican (“Pelican”) was first discovered in Oregon in late October. It has been found in 12 other states, and is the only variant of seven found overseas in tests in Australia, Denmark, India and Switzerland.
- Yellowhammer ("Golden Woodpecker"), like Robin 2, is most common in the southeastern United States. He first appeared in trial at the end of November.
- Bluebird ("Sialia"), which first appeared in August, is most common in the Northeast.
- Quail (“Quail”) is most often found in opposite corners of the United States, in the northeast and southwest. It was first discovered in early October.
- Mockingbird ("Mockingbird") was first discovered in late November and is distributed in the south-central United States, as well as on the east coast.
However, the vast majority of positive coronavirus samples are never genetically sequenced, so it is unclear how widespread these variants are or where they came from.
"At the moment, I would hesitate to name the origin of any of these lineages," Emma Hodcroft, study co-author and epidemiologist at the University of Bern, told the New York Times.
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It is not yet possible to say if mutations are more virulent - as the available data are insufficient to determine whether they have indeed spread at an accelerated rate, or whether they simply benefited from conditions conducive to infection.
However, other international variants - most notably the British strain that was found in the United States, including New York - proved to be significantly more infectious than the original strain.
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