KEY POINTS

  • Two new coronavirus strain detected in the US likely originated in the country
  • The new strains is likely more infectious than other variants
  • The new COVID-19 variation will not diminish the effectiveness of vaccines

Researchers in Ohio revealed Wednesday that they identified two new strains of the novel coronavirus that may have originated in the United States.

A patient at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center was diagnosed with one of the new variants. Researchers have yet to determine the prevalence of that strain in the population.

The second strain became prevalent in Columbus over a period between late December 2020 and early January. It carries similar mutations to a strain detected in the United Kingdom, and is more infectious than other COVID-19 variants. The strain is unlikely to make coronavirus vaccines less effective, the researchers said in a press 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,” Peter Mohler, co-author of the study, said. “It is critical that we continue to monitor the evolution of the virus so we can understand the impact of the mutant forms on the design of both diagnostics and therapeutics. It is critical that we make decisions based on the best science.”

Researchers at the Wexner Medical Center have yet to send the findings to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The team has been sequencing the coronavirus since March, and have sequenced hundreds of samples per week. 

“We are now in a period where the virus is changing quite substantially. This is the moment, as we’re starting to see changes, where vaccination is being introduced and where the virus has been in the human population for some months, where we do want to be looking out very carefully for the emergence of not just single mutations, but new strains that have multiple mutations,” Dr. Dan Jones, vice chair of the division of molecular pathology at Ohio State and lead author of the study, said.

Researchers also have detected new variants of the coronavirus in several other countries. On Sunday, researchers at Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases revealed that a new variant infected four travelers who arrived from Brazil. The new strain shared mutations with highly-infectious variants detected in the U.K. and South Africa.

As for South Africa, researchers on Dec. 18 detected a variant spreading across the country. Referred to as “501Y.V2,” the strain has been dominant in Eastern Cape, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. 

In the U.K., researchers on Dec. 14 discovered the “VOC 202012/01” strain in a patient in Kent. It caused COVID-19 cases to surge across England. Analysis has suggested that it's likely to be 70% more transmissible than the novel coronavirus strain that reached the U.S. in early 2020. South Korea became the latest country to detect the new coronavirus variant South Korea became the latest country to detect the new coronavirus variant Photo: AFP / Jung Yeon-je