CARBONDALE, Ill. (KFVS) - Southern Illinois University researchers discovered a new variant of COVID-19 in the United States and said it could be more contagious than other variants.
“If you can’t see the virus, then you can’t beat it,” said Adrian Pater, PhD student at SIU.
“It’s all over the U.S. It’s much for prevalent in some states than others. Probably the reason that we found was it’s very prevalent in the Upper Midwest, central portions of the U.S.,” said Keith Gagnon, SIU associate professor of Biochemistry.
Gagnon said the research team discovered the new variant shortly after Christmas.
“We were concerned but at the same time we were also happy to have discovered it and surprised that nobody else has discovered it as of now,” said Pater.
“I think one of the take-homes is continue to be vigilant, and I think we should get vaccines. We want to make it difficult for this virus to continue to mutant and change. The more opportunities we give it, the more chances it has to create new problems for us,” said Gagnon.
According to Gagnon, the virus is changing and evolving.
“If we can get vaccines rolled out quickly and create enough immunity. We might be able to slow it down significantly.”
The team published their research and shared the discovery with the Illinois Department of Public Health and the CDC.
“Hopefully we will be able to continue to follow this variant over time, see how it changes how it evolves, and continue to add knowledge and improve our response,” said Gagnon.
This new variant is highly isolated to the U.S. It is not the same as the one found in the U.K. recently.
The researchers said more scientists need to take part in genome surveillance to learn as much about this virus as possible.
They plan to monitor the new variant in the months and years to come.