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Undetected coronavirus variant was in at least 15 countries before its discovery, study finds

A extremely contagious SARS-CoV-2 variant was unknowingly spreading for months in the United States by October 2020, in line with a brand new study from researchers with The University of Texas at Austin COVID-19 Modeling Consortium. Scientists first found it in early December in the United Kingdom, the place the extremely contagious and extra deadly variant is assumed to have originated. The journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, which has printed an early-release model of the study, supplies proof that the coronavirus variant B117 (501Y) had unfold throughout the globe undetected for months when scientists found it.

“By the time we learned about the U.K. variant in December, it was already silently spreading across the globe,” mentioned Lauren Ancel Meyers, the director of the COVID-19 Modeling Consortium at The University of Texas at Austin and a professor of integrative biology. “We estimate that the B117 variant probably arrived in the U.S. by October of 2020, two months before we knew it existed.”

Analyzing information from 15 countries, researchers estimated the possibility that vacationers from the U.Okay. launched the variant into 15 countries between Sept. 22 and Dec. 7, 2020. They discovered that the virus variant had nearly definitely arrived in all 15 countries by mid-November. In the U.S., the variant most likely had arrived by mid-October.

“This study highlights the importance of laboratory surveillance,” Meyers mentioned. “Rapid and extensive sequencing of virus samples is critical for early detection and tracking of new variants of concern.”

In conjunction with the paper’s publication, consortium members developed a brand new software that decision-makers wherever in the United States can use in planning for genetic sequencing that helps to detect the presence of variants. To assist the U.S. broaden nationwide surveillance of variants, the brand new on-line calculator signifies the variety of virus samples that should be sequenced in order to detect new variants after they first emerge. For instance, if the aim is to detect an rising variant by the point it’s inflicting 1 out of each 1,000 new COVID-19 infections, roughly 3,000 SARS-CoV-2 optimistic specimens per week have to be sequenced.

“Health officials are looking for better ways to manage the unpredictability of this virus and future variants,” mentioned Spencer Woody, a postdoctoral fellow at the UT COVID-19 Modeling Consortium. “Our new calculator determines how many positive SARS-CoV-2 specimens must be sequenced to ensure that new threats are identified as soon as they start spreading.”

He defined that the calculator has a second characteristic. “It also helps labs figure out how quickly they will detect new variants, given their current sequencing capacity.”

“We created this tool to support federal, state and local health officials in building credible early warning systems for this and future pandemic threats,” Meyers mentioned.

In addition to Meyers, authors of the Emerging Infectious Disease paper are Zhanwei Du, Bingyi Yang, Sheikh Taslim Ali, Tim Okay. Tsang, Songwei Shan, Peng Wu, Eric H.Y. Lau and Benjamin J. Cowling of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Infectious Disease (*15*) and Control in Hong Kong and Lin Wang of the University of Cambridge.

The analysis was funded by Hong Kong’s Health and Medical Research Fund, the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Meyers holds the Denton A. Cooley Centennial Professorship at The University of Texas at Austin.

Story Source:

Materials supplied by University of Texas at Austin. Note: Content could also be edited for model and size.

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