As public health experts around the world issue warnings about new mutant strains of SARS-CoV-2, it appears a new variant has been isolated in Ohio, likely originating from somewhere in the Midwest.
One of these variants, dubbed the “Columbus strain,” has three gene mutations that haven’t previously been seen in other SARS-CoV-2 strains – the virus that causes COVID-19, according to a statement from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. These mutations occur in the so-called spike protein of the virus, which enables the virus to bind to human cells more quickly.
This strain quickly became the dominant COVID strain variant in Columbus over a three-week period between late December 2020 and early January, according to the researchers, who hope to post their findings soon on the pre-print database bioRxiv.
A second variant found by the Ohio researchers has a mutation dubbed 501Y that is identical to one seen in the UK’s B117 variant. This mutation affects the receptor-binding domain, or part of the virus’s spike protein that latches onto the ACE2 receptor in human cells; in lab-dish experiments, the mutated receptor-binding domain binds more tightly to the ACE2 receptor, past research found.
However, the researchers believe the Ohio-linked mutation independently evolved from a similarly mutated strain that was already a strain already in the US. So far, it has only been found in one patient from Ohio, so the researchers don’t yet know how prevalent it is in the population overall. A spokesperson for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told CNBC that the agency is reviewing the new research. But the researchers believe the Ohio variant independently evolved that mutation from a strain already in the U.S. It was found in one patient from Ohio, so the researchers don’t yet know how prevalent it is in the population overall.
Of course, with so many new “mutant” (deadlier, more contagious) strains of COVID-19 spreading around the country, the Biden administration will have the perfect excuse to extend lockdowns nationwide into late 2021 and beyond… reinforcing Americans’ dependence on government welfare (and implicitly the Democratic Party) even more.