One of the most difficult aspects of controlling a virus, including influenza, is that it has the ability to mutate into various strains. According to researchers from Spain and Switzerland, COVID-19 is no different. In fact, a new strain has already been detected in Europe. Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.
The New Strain is Prevalent in Many Parts of Europe
The non-peer reviewed study details how the virus genetically mutated into a new strain that originated in Spain and spread across Europe over the summer. "A variant of SARS-CoV-2 emerged in early summer 2020, presumably in Spain, and has since spread to multiple European countries," the researchers explain. The variant, identified as 20A.EU1, was first detected in June, "and has been at frequencies above 40% since July."
Outside of Spain, "the frequency of this variant has increased from very low values prior to 15th July to 40-70% in Switzerland, Ireland, and the United Kingdom in September. It is also prevalent in Norway, Latvia, the Netherlands, and France," they explain.
Researchers point out that there is no evidence finding that this new variant spreads more quickly than other mutations. However, it did spread rapidly over the summer, which could be a result of an uptick in tourism and relaxed mandates.
"We show that this variant was exported from Spain to other European countries multiple times and that much of the diversity of this cluster in Spain is observed across Europe. It is currently unclear whether this variant is spreading because of a transmission advantage of the virus or whether high incidence in Spain followed by dissemination through tourists is sufficient to explain the rapid rise in multiple countries," they write.
In September a group of Houston scientists released a study detailing 5,000 genetic sequences of COVID-19, demonstrating mutations that have made it increasingly more contagious, but not deadlier.
This Could Mean Bad News for Immunity
One of the major implications of a mutating virus, is that it could compromise immunity.
"Although we don't know yet, it is well within the realm of possibility that this coronavirus, when our population-level immunity gets high enough, this coronavirus will find a way to get around our immunity," David Morens, a virologist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who works with Dr. Anthony Fauci explained to the Washington Post in September. "If that happened, we'd be in the same situation as with flu. We'll have to chase the virus and, as it mutates, we'll have to tinker with our vaccine." To be on the safe side, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.