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Illinois researchers say this variant may be more contagious and may have originated in Houston back in May of 2020.

HOUSTON — New research coming out of Southern Illinois University Carbondale says they discovered a new variant of COVID-19 that researchers believe is much more easily transmissible than other variants.

According to the research, they believe this variant might have started in Houston back in May of last year, and they believe over time it has spread in the U.S.

Genomic virus surveillance can lead to early identification of new variants and inform proper response during a pandemic. Using this approach, we have identified a new variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that emerged in the United States (U.S.) early in the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and has become one of the most prevalent U.S variants.

Doctors at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston say they’re not surprised. They say the virus can mutate easily when it infects humans.

“The human immune response will push back to eliminate them. That is why the virus will evolve and block the host of defense to live and survive,” said Dr. Pei-Yong Shi at UTMB Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology.

They say the next step should be to continue to monitor this new variance and test it to answer all of the questions everyone still has.

“Does this mutation really matter in a way that really increase transmission? Does it really affect the effectiveness of the vaccine or therapeutic antibodies and the antiviral drugs?” Dr. Shi said.

But scientists at UTMB in Galveston don’t think this new variance was part of any COVID-19 wave of infection.

“Probably not, I would think. Otherwise it would have been identified much earlier. That is my speculation,” Dr. Shi said.

Scientists hope more collaborative research is done on this variance to try and figure out if it really affects transmission or if it affects the effectiveness of the vaccine.

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