Some of the top scientists in the U.S. are studying a new strain of COVID-19 that has emerged in the U.K. and is reportedly more contagious.
Scientists at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research are looking into the new mutation of the coronavirus to find out if it could be resistant to new vaccines that are currently being distributed across America, according to a new report.
Dr. Nelson Michael, director of the Center for Infectious Diseases Research at the institute, told CNN that right now, there’s no indication that the inoculations will be ineffective. “It stands to reason that this mutation isn’t a threat, but you never know. We still have to be diligent and continue to look,” Michael told the network on Sunday.
It’s also unclear if the morphed strain is more deadly or causes more severe symptoms.
The Walter Reed scientists on Thursday began studying the genetic sequences of the new strain, which was posted online by British researchers. The “analysis will allow us to gauge how much concern we should have. Other teams around the world are doing this analysis, too,” Michael told CNN.
Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday said, “There’s no evidence to suggest the vaccine will be any less effective against the new variant. Our experts will continue their work to improve our understanding as fast as we can.”
Viruses are always evolving in an attempt to keep spreading — and in many cases, the easier they are to catch, the less deadly they are. The flu, for instance, is constantly changing, which is why flu vaccines are altered every year, too.
In addition, new strains of COVID-19, which was first discovered in China, have been seen since the virus emerged approximately a year ago in Wuhan.
But the fact that the virus is changing, just as vaccines to target it are being distributed, has some concerned. “Health experts in the U.K. and U.S. said the strain seems to infect more easily than others, but there is no evidence yet it is more deadly,” The Associated Press reported Sunday.
Patrick Vallance, the British government’s chief scientific adviser, told the AP that the new strain “moves fast and is becoming the dominant variant.”
“I’m worried about this, for sure,” Dr. Ravi Gupta, who studies viruses at the University of Cambridge in England, told the news agency.
But Dr. Vivek Murthy, who Joe Biden has tapped to be surgeon general (and who has served as surgeon general before) seemed less troubled.
Appearing on “Meet the Press” on NBC, Murthy said: “This news from the U.K. is about a strain of the virus that … appears to be more transmissible and more contagious than the virus that we’ve seen circulating prior to this.”
“While it seems to be more easily transmissible, we do not have evidence yet that this is a more deadly virus to an individual who acquires it,” Murthy added.
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