Researchers at Ohio State have found a variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19.By Dr. Maria Simbra

COLUMBUS (KDKA) – Researchers at Ohio State University have discovered a new variant of coronavirus.

“We are now in a period where the virus is changing quite substantially. So this is why we’re concerned,” says Dr. Daniel Jones, professor and vice-chair of molecular pathology at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

Researchers found it when they went looking for the U.K. variant in collected samples. Instead, they found a mutation that matches the U.K. variant but on genetically American coronavirus.

“Didn’t transmit over likely a plane or a boat, but actually was a spontaneous or natural mutation on a U.S. strain that happened here — likely in the United States — over the course of the last six to eight weeks,” says Peter Mahler, Ph.D., chief scientific officer at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

Their finding suggests that the same mutation may be occurring independently in multiple parts of the world.

“This has important implications for whether or not travel restrictions would be effective in limiting the spread of viruses with this particular mutation,” says Dr. Jones.

With the mutation affecting only one amino acid out of the 1,300 that make up a spike protein, vaccines and antibody therapies are expected to still work. But the change may affect how easily the variant spreads.

So far, the researchers identified the new variant in one patient only. They don’t know how widespread it is. Their findings are awaiting peer review and have not yet been published.

The researchers have also noted another strain with three new mutations. They’ve picked this up in 20 samples. This combination of genetic changes has not been seen before in the novel coronavirus. At the end of 2020, it became the dominant strain in Columbus.

Dr. Maria Simbra