UK identifies new COVID-19 variant

Matt Hancock, U.K. health secretary, announced a genetic variant of COVID-19 has been identified in more than 1,000 cases in southeast England, though experts aren't sure whether it's responsible for the region's surge, The Washington Post reported Dec. 15.

Dr. Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust biomedical research foundation, is unsure whether the mutation makes the virus more transmissible or causes severe infection.

"The pressure on the virus to evolve is increased by the fact that so many millions of people have now been infected," he told the Post. "Most of the mutations will not be significant or cause for concern, but some may give the virus an evolutionary advantage, which may lead to higher transmission or mean it is more harmful." 

Mutations are common and there's not yet cause for concern, though scientists will continue to keep a close eye on the new variant which has shown 17 mutations. Scientists will be concerned if the strain becomes dominant. 

Researchers first detected the variant in September. Currently, there's no indication that the variant will pose problems to vaccine efficacy, experts told the Post

More articles on public health:
Number of COVID-19 hospitalizations, state by state: Dec. 16
Dr. Paul Farmer wins $1M Berggruen prize
23 states where COVID-19 is spreading fastest, slowest: Dec. 16


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