Third homegrown coronavirus variant found in U.S. as researchers say first emerged in Texas in MAY

BREAKING NEWS: Third homegrown coronavirus variant is found in the U.S. as Illinois researchers say it first emerged in Texas in MAY

  • A third homegrown variant of the coronavirus has been found in the U.S.
  • Illinois researchers say the earliest appearance of new variant, called 20C-U, was in Texas in May 2020
  • The variant has not spread significantly beyond U.S. borders and is most highly prevalent in the Upper Midwest 

Researchers have discovered the third new variant of the coronavirus in the U.S. and say it may be the most easily transmissible one yet.

A team from Southern Illinois University Carbondale traced the earliest appearance of new variant, called  20C-U, to Texas in May 2020.

The variant carries several mutations, including to the spike protein, which the virus uses to enter and infect human cells.

Scientists say the variant has not spread significantly beyond the country’s borders, but that is most highly prevalent in the Upper Midwest. 

‘We predict that 20C-US may already be the most dominant variant of SARS-CoV-2 in the U.S.,’ the team wrote in a pre-print article

‘The ongoing evolution of 20C-US, as well as other dominant region-specific variants emerging around the world, should continue to be monitored with genomic, epidemiologic, and experimental studies to understand viral evolution and predict future outcomes of the pandemic.’

Researchers from from Southern Illinois University Carbondale say the earliest appearance of new variant, called 20C-U, was in Texas in May 2020 and is most highly prevalent in the Upper Midwest

Researchers from from Southern Illinois University Carbondale say the earliest appearance of new variant, called 20C-U, was in Texas in May 2020 and is most highly prevalent in the Upper Midwest

20C-U is now one of the growing list of mutations discovered in countries such as the UK, South Africa and Brazil.

The news comes just one day after Ohio researchers announced the first discovery of two homegrown variants – one virtually identical to a variant that emerged in the UK and the other completely unique to the U.S.     

The team, led by Dr Keith Gagnon, an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry at SIU, first noticed the possibility of the new variant while looking at genome sequencing data from Illinois.

‘The data kind of jumped off the page when we looked at it, so we then started looking at national data, and later worldwide genome sequence data, :Gagnon said in a news release.

‘It’s here. We found it. It’s definitely home-grown and widespread, and we’re the first to characterize it.’ 

With the first doses of newly approved vaccines being administered across the national, Gagnon said it is unknown whether the variant will impact its effectiveness. 

‘Based on the mutations so far, I don’t think it will significantly impact the vaccine’s effectiveness,’ he said.

‘The catch is that the virus continues to evolve, and since May, it has acquired three mutations, and two of them are in the spike protein, one of which might affect antibody binding. There are a lot of unknowns.’  

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