Southern Illinois University Carbondale researchers have revealed a third US born COVID strain has been identified and possibly has circulated since last Spring.
In their study Emergence and Evolution of a Prevalent New SARS-CoV-2 Variant in the United States, Pater et al reports the new variant, named 20C-US is of the B.1.2 lineage and has been present in the southern US since May 2020.
At that time the 20C-US variant had undergone 5 mutations but now authors state:
20C-US has since acquired two new non-synonymous mutations that highlight its ongoing evolution, one of which is a Q677H mutation in the spike protein adjacent to the furin cleavage site. We predict that 20C-US may already be the most dominant variant of SARS-CoV-2 in the U.S.
The 20C-US has not been identified in other countries yet, however, if it is the “most dominant” variant of SARS-CoV-2 in the US and has been circulating for some time, it would not surprise officials if it has emigrated since its emergence last May.
Earlier this week Ohio State University researchers reported 2 new variants of the COVID virus they believe originated in the United States.
One strain became the dominant strain in the Columbus area over the last few weeks.
Experts do not believe any of the above strains to be more lethal but they do appear to be more contagious.
One of the OSU identified strains has a similar mutation to the UK COVID variant and the other has 3 new mutations that involve the spike proteins used by the virus to enter human host cells.
The CDC is currently reviewing their research.
Study author Dr. Dan Jones states, “This new Columbus strain has the same genetic backbone as earlier cases we’ve studied, but these three mutations represent a significant evolution.”
This is a developing story.
Last week the White House Task Force suggested a brand new COVID variant could have formed in the US causing the massive spikes in new cases.
Reported by the Hill, the White House Task Force report stated, in their weekly report:
“This fall/winter surge has been at nearly twice the rate of rise of cases as the spring and summer surges.”
“This acceleration suggests there may be a USA variant that has evolved here, in addition to the UK variant that is already spreading in our communities and may be 50% more transmissible.”
However, the CDC had said a new US variant had not been confirmed.
NBC News provided a quote from the CDC stating, “to date, neither researchers nor analysts at CDC have seen the emergence of a particular variant in the United States as has been seen with the emergence” of the variants from the UK and South Africa.
Currently the UK is battling a highly contagious strain of the virus named. B.1.1.7 or VUI-202012/01 (Variant Under Investigation 12th month 2020).
According to British public officials, this strain of the COVID-19 virus has shown over 17 mutations, one of which is the N501Y mutation that affects how the spike protein attaches to one’s ACE2 receptor to enter the cell.
501.V2/501Y.V2/B.1.351 are names of the COVID variant in South Africa with a similar spike protein mutation.
Both strains are believed to be more infectious but not more lethal.
Pfizer has said their COVID-19 vaccine efficacy should not be affected by the new variant. However UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps warned the current vaccines being used might not protect against the South African strain.
A new strain has been detected in Japan when 4 people who travelled from Brazil began showing symptoms of COVID and tested revealed a new variant.
Information on emerging COVID virus variants can be found here.
This is a developing story.
Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, KDWN, iHeart Radio and is a Board Certified Family Physician