New coronavirus variant discovered in Ohio

COLUMBUS — Scientists at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and College of Medicine have discovered a new variant of coronavirus and are warning people “don’t overreact.”

The new variant carries a mutation identical to the U.K. strain, however it likely came from a virus strain already present in the U.S., the hospital reported Wednesday.

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“This new Columbus strain has the same genetic backbone as earlier cases we’ve studied, but these three mutations represent a significant evolution,” said Dr. Dan Jones, vice chair of the division of molecular pathology. “We know this shift didn’t come from the U.K. or South African branches of the virus.”

At this point, doctors said they don’t have any data to believe the mutation will have any impact on how well the vaccines will work.

“It’s important that we don’t overreact to this new variant until we obtain additional data,” Chief Scientific Officer Pete 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.”

Jones said viruses naturally mutate and evolve over time, but said the “changes seen in the last two months have been more prominent than in the first months of the pandemic.”

Doctors on the study said the new variant likely will make it easier to pass the virus person to person, since it has the same mutation as the U.K. variant.

The evolving strain has become the dominant virus in Columbus during a three week period in late December and into January.

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