A group of health experts has discovered seven unique strains of COVID19 spreading across the US. The study has reported that these distinct new strains have been mutating within the US itself. The seven new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus have been found between August and November 2020. All variants have been found to be in the same growing lineage. Experts have said that unlike more deadly variants, which have been identified in the UK and South Africa, these seven mutants show no sign of increased transmissibility. They have said that none of these seven variants have become prominent in the US. The authors of the study have said that neutral mutations can become constant in a lineage selectively by chance or human behavior. Therefore, the new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus can show up and shoot up in numbers with time in the absence of any clear or persistent selective gain. One of the co-authors of the study, Jeremy Kamil, who is a virologist at Louisiana State University (LSU), has said that he has found these new strains of the virus while he has been sequencing coronavirus test samples. Then he has uploaded the details of these viral mutants on an online database. The co-author of the study, Daryl Domman from the University of New Mexico and Jeremy Kamil have found that the same mutants have been discovered in both places and the two have started investigating further.
Experts have said that the new mutation is more troublesome as it emerges within a gene that affects how the virus interacts with the human cells. It helps the virus to enter and attach to the human cells and attack the immune system. The authors of the study have said that that there is an apparent sign of an evolutionary benefit in the mutation. The study has noted that the lineage, which has been found by Jeremy Kamil, has separately grown a mutation in the 677th amino acid in the genetic sequence same as other six variants, which have been newly found across the US. Experts have said that the improved ability to bind and infect cells more easily and effectively is the superpower of the virus. They have proved that the virus has been able to adapt to its human host in more than many ways as it has survived over the many months. As per the experts, the variation in the 677th amino acid, which has been found in the seven new strains of the virus, makes it easy for the spike protein of the virus to be activated, which helps the virus to latch on and infect the human cells. It can lead to subsequent infection as well. It does not mean that the new strains are more infectious or can spread faster than the original variant but it means that encounters with the new strains can result in a greater percentage of infection.
The author of the study Emma Hodcroft has said that the common appearance of these new mutations in samples during the genomic analysis might be due to erratic outbreaks, super-spreader events, and holiday travel. Emma Hodcroft has been working on a number of studies as an epidemiologist at the University of Bern. Some experts have said that the way virus interacts with other organisms needs more research into the functionality of the mutation. They have said the findings of the new study need to be followed up with more experimental data. To validate the findings of this study, experts need to test a bigger set of coronavirus samples as compared to what is available right now. Well, the exact origin of these seven viral strains is still uncertain. The authors of the study have said that some of these variants are more prominent across the Midwest and others are quite prevalent across the coasts.