Unique COVID-19 strain circulates in Chicago

A unique strain of COVID-19 is circulating in Chicago that may have infection characteristics that are different from the most common strain spreading worldwide, according to new research from Chicago-based Northwestern Medicine.

For the study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, researchers genetically sequenced residual specimens from 88 patients tested for COVID-19 between March 14 and March 21. Preliminary results show some patients were infected with a COVID-19 strain linked to the early outbreak in China.

Others were infected with a strain commonly found in New York that appears to be the most dominant strain worldwide. Patients with this strain often have more virus present in their upper airways than those infected with the Chicago strain.

"This is the first clear evidence that genetic differences in the viruses are associated with differences in the characteristics of the infections that they cause," lead author Egon Ozer, MD, PhD, a physician and assistant professor of infectious diseases at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said in a press release emailed to Becker's. 

Chicago has become a "melting pot" for different COVID-19 strains since it is a major U.S. transportation hub, according to Dr. Ozer. He said the study's findings could help guide vaccination strategies against the virus.

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