There are seven growing Covid-19 lineages found across the United States, a new study has confirmed. They’ve all mutated into the same genetic letter.
“There’s clearly something going on with this mutation,” said Jeremy Kamil, a virologist at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center Shreveport and a co-author of the new study, as cited in the New York Times report.
Scientists are yet to find out whether the virus is made more infectious by these mutations. However, they speculated that the mutation could have appeared in a gene that determines how human cells will enter the virus.
“I think there’s a clear sign of an evolutionary benefit,” Kamil said.
Kamil carried out the research when, sequencing samples from coronavirus samples in Louisiana, he discovered some of the latest variants of the novel coronavirus. He found an unfamiliar mutation in a number of samples in January.
On further study, Kamil discovered that all the mutations he discovered belonged to the same lineage.
“I’d be quite hesitant to give an origin location for any of these lineages at the moment,” said Emma Hodcroft, an epidemiologist at the University of Bern and a co-author of the new study.
The researchers assume that due to the holiday season and less restriction of travel, all the variants quickly dispersed across the world. It might also be likely that at bars or factories they may have come from superspreader cases.
The researchers are worried about the mutations because they suspect that the mutations could have a possible effect on how easily the virus reaches human cells, the New York Times reported.
Scientists would need to study a much bigger sample of coronaviruses collected from around the country to fully understand what the mutations are doing, he said.