(ORDO NEWS) — In Illinois and neighboring states, biologists have discovered a previously unknown strain of a new type of coronavirus. It is highly infectious and does not look like the “British” SARS-CoV-2. An article describing the new strain has been published by the electronic scientific library bioRxiv.
“We discovered a new strain of coronavirus, 20C-US, which first appeared in the southern United States at the end of May last year. Having acquired five mutations, it began to spread rapidly throughout the United States. Now, we assume, it has begun to dominate the entire United States. , but has not yet penetrated into other countries, “the researchers write.
Viruses change constantly as they evolve. In some cases, these changes are due to natural selection, and in others, random errors in self-production. A new type of coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is no exception: the media and scientists are constantly writing about its new varieties. The most famous is the so-called “British” strain, which appeared last fall. According to scientists, it is more infectious than other known strains.
Earlier this week, American scientists announced another type of virus that was found in Ohio. It is similar to the “British” variety in terms of the set of mutations, but, nevertheless, is not associated with it. Molecular biologists led by Keith Gagnon, Associate Professor at Southern Illinois University (USA), have discovered another new strain of coronavirus that has begun to supplant pre-existing varieties of the pathogen COVID-19.
Comparing the genomes of samples of the virus collected from hospitals in Illinois, scientists have noticed that over the past months and weeks, more and more residents of the state have been infected with the same SARS-CoV-2 – 20C-US strain. It is distinguished by five characteristic RNA mutations – N1653D, R2613C, G172V, P67S, and P199L. In other strains of the causative agent of COVID-19, these mutations have not previously been found.
Biologists decided to study in detail what role such mutations played in the rapid spread of this species, and also tracked its penetration into the rest of the states.
Calculations have shown that the ancestors of this type of virus appeared in the United States in May this year. At first, they circulated not in the northeast of the country, but in its southern states, where they came from Spain. At the end of June, the 20C-US ancestor simultaneously acquired all five key mutations and began to spread rapidly not only in Illinois and neighboring states, but throughout the country as a whole.
Gagnon and his colleagues believe that the reason for this was that at the end of the summer, two more mutations appeared in the 20C-US genome – M2606I and Q677H. They changed the structure of the envelope of the virus and its enzymes, which is why it began to multiply more actively inside human cells and better penetrate them. Biologists’ calculations show that this strain is much more infectious than other variations of SARS-CoV-2 that spread across the United States in the first half of last year. But in lethality, he is inferior to them.
Scientists hope that further study of the consequences of the appearance of these mutations and experiments with cultures of infected cells will help to assess how changes in the structure of the 20C-US genome influenced the behavior of the virus, as well as to understand how likely the emergence of other regional SARS-CoV-2 varieties with a unique set mutations.
It should be added that the scientists’ article was not reviewed by independent experts or reviewed by the editors of scientific journals, as is usually the case in such cases. Therefore, the conclusions from it and similar articles should be treated with caution.
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