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UNMC doctors keeping a watch for mutated COVID

Published: Dec. 21, 2020 at 11:01 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The mutations are in the spike protein.

“Because it has become the predominant version of the virus that is circulating in large parts of the UK including London there is some concern that perhaps these mutations have made the virus more transmissible,” said Dr. James Lawler, director of the Global Center for Health Security at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

As we now know, the vaccine focuses on the spike protein; but the current mutation isn’t drastic enough that it will make vaccines in circulation irrelevant.

“All of this is very early and it’s too early I think to push the panic button and to think this is somehow behaving differently,” Lawler said.

He wants people to stay on their toes when it comes to safety but said we’re still nearing the end of the pandemic.

The new strain hasn’t been found in the U.S. yet. Research is constantly being done to study the virus, but because the mutation isn’t of extreme concern they’re not testing every sample.

“This is an MRNA virus, which is very prone to mutations like this,” Lawler said.

We’ve had our own mutations here in the U.S., he said, most noticeably in Houston; and while it’s not necessarily a good thing, it can’t help with contact tracing

“So when we do sequencing studies that’s one of the ways that we figure out transmitted to who and where clusters are occurring,” Lawler said.

For now, no wide-scale attempt is being made to find mutated strains of the coronavirus, but because new strains that have popped up seem to be more contagious, doctors are requesting that you stay more vigilant than ever even as new vaccines roll out.

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