COLUMBUS, Ohio (WDTN) – Scientists at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and College of Medicine have made new discoveries about a mutation in SARS-COV2, the virus that causes COVID-19. They announced their discoveries during a state-wide call with media on Wednesday.
Their first discovery is a a new variant of COVID-19 with a mutation identical to a mutated strain in the United Kingdom. However, researches believe the mutation came from a strain here in the United States.
Their second discovery is the evolution of a U.S. strain of coronavirus with three other gene mutations not previously seen together in sars-cov2, the virus that causes COVID-19
Researches emphasized during their call with media members that mutating viruses is common and they have no cause for serious alarm right now.
They say they have not yet found that those infected with the mutated forms of the coronavirus are liable to be re-infected or resistant to the currently available vaccines.
“We have no evidence that a single mutation could lead to loss of natural resistance and reinfection however as the virus is changing the risk changes as well,” explained Dr. Dan Jones, vice chair of the division of molecular pathology at OSU Wexner Medical Center.
“To date we have no data that the vaccine will not be effective on these viral strains,” said Dr. Peter Mohler, a co-author of the study and chief scientific officer at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center and vice dean for research at the College of Medicine.
The viral mutations are a result of the virus looking to survive and continue to replicate.
“The virus, in this case, is working to survive,” explained Dr. Mohler. “The virus is working to look for a host where it can stick around. And in this case, because we’re dealing with so many people across the world, the virus is figuring out a way to stick around and reproduce.”
Dr. Roberto Colon, associate chief medical officer of Miami Valley Hospital says the mutations likely won’t be more deadly, as that wouldn’t help the virus to evolve.
“If you had a variant that makes the virus much more lethal, you probably will not see that in replication as often because it kills the host before it has the opportunity to replicate itself into another host,” he explained.
Dr. Colon also says that the method for fighting the virus, even with the mutations, should stay the same.
“Masking social distancing avoiding gatherings and when possible using the vaccine to give us additional immunity from the virus,” he said. “We may end up seeing just enough immunity and enough changes that it just becomes one of our nuisance viruses eventually.”
So far, one person in Columbus is confirmed to have the variant that is similar to the mutated U.K. strain. About 20 people were detected to have the U.S. based strain with three mutations.
Dr. Jones say these cannot be detected with a PCR test yet, but research is still forthcoming.
Read more about the research here.