Scientists from Southern Illinois University have identified a third US variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 — and it may be the most contagious strain yet, researchers said Thursday.
The homegrown mutation, dubbed 20C-US, is believed to be responsible for up to 50 percent of all US cases — hitting the Midwest the hardest, researchers said in a press release.
“It’s here. We found it,” said Keith Gagnon, an associate professor of biochemistry at SIU Carbondale. “It’s definitely home-grown and widespread.”
Gagnon said he and his team traced the strain back to Texas, where it first appeared in May.
The mutation has a keen ability to process viral proteins along with strong “RNA genome integrity,” the researchers said — making it frighteningly efficient at spreading.
“It might be more easily transmissible than other variants, and its impact on vaccines is uncertain,” the press release states.
The findings come a day after scientists at Ohio State University said they discovered a different strain of the COVID-19 virus — which carries a mutation similar to the UK strain.
The results of the 20C-US study were published in the online journal bioRxiv.org on Wednesday.
“We predict that 20C-US may already be the most dominant variant of SARS-CoV-2 in the US,” the article states.
“The ongoing evolution of 20C-US, as well as other dominant region-specific variants emerging around the world, should continue to be monitored.”
Thankfully, the virus variant likely hasn’t spread significantly beyond US borders, according to the report.
Newly identified strain of COVID in US may be most contagious yet The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ New York Post.