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New study finds 7 Covid-19 variants in US, carrying same mutation

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on February 16, 2021

Scientists are yet to figure out whether these mutations make the virus more contagious

A new study has reported that there are seven growing lineages of Covid-19 identified across the United States. All of them have mutated in the same genetic letter.

"There’s clearly something going on with this mutation," said Jeremy Kamil, a virologist at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center Shreveport and a co-author of the new study, as cited in the New York Times report.

The scientists are yet to figure out whether these mutations make the virus more contagious. However, they speculated that the mutation may have appeared in a gene that decides how the virus can enter human cells.

"I think there’s a clear signature of an evolutionary benefit," Kamil said.

Kamil carried out the study when he found some of the new variants of the novel coronavirus while he was sequencing samples from coronavirus tests in Louisiana. In January, he observed an unfamiliar mutation in a number of samples.

On further probe, Kamil found out that all mutations discovered by him belonged to the same lineage.

“I’d be quite hesitant to give an origin location for any of these lineages at the moment,” said Emma Hodcroft, an epidemiologist at the University of Bern and a co-author of the new study.

The researchers believe that all the variants rapidly scattered across the country due to the holiday season and less restriction in travel. It could also be possible that they might have come from superspreader events at bars or factories.

The researchers are apprehensive of the mutations as they believe the mutations could plausibly affect how easily the virus gets into human cells, New York Times reported.

To really understand what the mutations are doing, he said, scientists will need to analyse a much bigger sampling of coronaviruses gathered from across the country.

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Published on February 16, 2021
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