Highly contagious COVID strain unknowingly spread in 15 countries – study – The Jerusalem Post

A new study has found that a previously undetected strain of the coronavirus spread into 15 countries, including the United States, unknowingly for months, according to a study published by the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.
Included in the study’s collaborations are: WHO Collaborating Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Control, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China ; Laboratory of Data Discovery for Health, Hong Kong ; University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK ; The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, USA ; Santa Fe Institute, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA.Researchers discovered that the variant first appeared in the United Kingdom in early December 2020, later spreading to the US, Ireland, France, Greece, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Romania, Poland, Turkey, Cyprus, Portugal and India. 
“By the time we learned about the UK variant in December, it was already silently spreading across the globe,” said Lauren Ancel Meyers, the director of the COVID-19 Modeling Consortium at The University of Texas at Austin and a professor of integrative biology, in a statement to UT News.
“We estimate that the B117 variant probably arrived in the US by October of 2020, two months before we knew it existed,” she added.
In terms of the impact of the study, Meyers said that “This study highlights the importance of laboratory surveillance.”
“Rapid and extensive sequencing of virus samples is critical for early detection and tracking of new variants of concern,” she noted. 

Along with the paper, the consortium also developed a tool for genetic sequencing that help further detect other coronavirus variants, which will aid in surveillance efforts. 
“Health officials are looking for better ways to manage the unpredictability of this virus and future variants,” said Spencer Woody, a postdoctoral fellow at the UT COVID-19 Modeling Consortium, to UT News. “Our new calculator determines how many positive SARS-CoV-2 specimens must be sequenced to ensure that new threats are identified as soon as they start spreading.” 


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