COLUMBUS, Ohio — Researchers at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and the university’s College of Medicine have discovered a new variant of SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in one patient from Ohio.
The new variant detected in the patient carries the same mutation identical to the strain in the U.K., but scientists say it likely arose from a strain already present in the United States. The evolving strain with the three new mutations has become the dominant virus in Columbus during a three-week period in late December 2020 and January.
“This new Columbus strain has the same genetic backbone as earlier cases we’ve studied, but these three mutations represent a significant evolution,” said study leader Dr. Dan Jones, vice chair of the division of molecular pathology, in a news release. “We know this shift didn’t come from the U.K. or South African branches of the virus.”
Scientists at the medical center have been sequencing the genome of SARS-Cov-2 in patients with COVID-19 since March 2020. Because the new variant has only been found in one patient, researchers can’t determine the prevalence of the strain in the general population.
Like the U.K. strain, the mutations in the Columbus strain are likely to make the virus more infectious, making it easier for the virus to pass from person-to-person.
“The big question is whether these mutations will render vaccines and current therapeutic approaches less effective,” said Peter Mohler, a co-author of the study and chief scientific officer at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center and vice dean for research at the College of Medicine. “At this point, we have no data to believe that these mutations will have any impact on the effectiveness of vaccines now in use.”
The Columbus strain, COH.20G/501Y, suggests the same mutation may be occurring independently in mutilple parts of the world in the last few months.
“Viruses naturally mutate and evolve over time, but the changes seen in the last two months have been more prominent than in the first months of the pandemic,” Jones said. His team has been conducting Ohio State’s genetic sequencing on environmental and patient SARS-CoV2 samples, and he’ll continue to monitor for changes as vaccination occurs.
Mohler stressed the importance of not overreacting to a new strain until additional data and research can be compiled.
“It’s important that we don’t overreact to this new variant until we obtain additional data,” Mohler said. “We need to understand the impact of mutations on transmission of the virus, the prevalence of the strain in the population and whether it has a more significant impact on human health. Further, 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.”
Additional Coronavirus information and resources:
See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.
Rebound Northeast Ohio News 5's initiative to help people through the financial impact of the coronavirus by offering one place to go for information on everything available to help and how to access it. We're providing resources on:
Getting Back to Work - Learn about the latest job openings, how to file for benefits and succeed in the job market.
Making Ends Meet - Find help on topics from rent to food to new belt-tightening techniques.
Managing the Stress - Feeling isolated or frustrated? Learn ways to connect with people virtually, get counseling or manage your stress.
Doing What's Right - Keep track of the way people are spending your tax dollars and treating your community.
We're Open! Northeast Ohio is place created by News 5 to open us up to new ways of thinking, new ways of gathering and new ways of supporting each other.
Click here for a page with resources including a COVID-19 overview from the CDC, details on cases in Ohio, a timeline of Governor Mike DeWine's orders since the outbreak, coronavirus' impact on Northeast Ohio, and link to more information from the Ohio Department of Health, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, the CDC and the WHO.
See data visualizations showing the impact of coronavirus in Ohio, including county-by-county maps, charts showing the spread of the disease, and more.
The CDC and the Ohio Department of Health are now recommending the use of cloth face coverings in public to slow the spread of COVID-19.
View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.