Emergence of Variant Strains of SARS-COV-2


Public health authorities and molecular biologists worldwide have intensified sequencing of SARS-COV-2 isolates following the emergence of variant strains. In the UK, mutations in the spike protein have given rise to the B1.1.7 lineage and a similar but separate mutation has been identified in a spontaneously arising strain in South Africa. The U.S. has lagged in intensity in sequencing isolates and accordingly the presence of the UK variant was not recognized before community transmission occurred. 


An example of “seek and ye shall find” is the demonstration of a novel variant in the Columbus OH. area identified by Dr. Dan Jones Vice-chair of the Division of Molecular Pathology at Ohio State University.  Dr. Jones stated, “We are now in a period where the virus is changing quite substantially.  This is the moment as we are starting to see changes with vaccinations being introduced and where the virus has been in the human population for some months.  We do want to be looking out very carefully for the emergence of not just single mutations but new strains that have multiple mutations.”


As yet there is no evidence that the variant strains that are now present in over 60 nations are any more pathogenic than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus but they are evidently more infectious.  Resulting pressure on medical facilities and on the economy is obvious since more people are contracting the infection within a limited time.  To date, studies have shown that vaccines currently evaluated and approved are effective against the variants.