Scientists at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and College of Medicine in Columbus have discovered a new variant of COVID-19. This new variant has the same mutation previously seen in the United Kingdom strain.
However, scientists said in a Jan. 13 news release this particular variant likely came from a virus strain already present in the United States. Although only one patient has been confirmed with this new variant in Ohio, the strain with these new mutations had become the dominant strain in Columbus for three weeks from late December 2020 and early January.
These findings are still under review for publication in bioRxiv as a pre-print.
“The big question is whether these mutations will render vaccines and current therapeutic approaches less effective,” said Peter Mohler, co-author of the study and chief scientific officer at Wexner Medical Center, in the release. “At this point, we have no data to believe that these mutations will have any impact on the effectiveness of vaccines now in use.”
Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, the Ohio Department of Health chief medical officer, discussed how new strains of the COVID-19 virus are being found in Ohio and across the globe during a Jan. 19 health briefing.
“The virus is changing to become more contagious,” he said. “This isn’t unexpected, it’s very typical viral behavior.”
The vaccine is proving to still be effective against the new strains, he said, but encouraged Ohioans to continue wearing masks, washing their hands and staying socially distant.