A new strain of the novel coronavirus is rapidly spreading from Europe to the US. According to Business Insider, a new study says the virus is more infectious than its predecessor but is not making people any sicker than before. According to Business Insider, researchers call the new strain G614 and the previous strain D614. One researcher says the new mutation is "now the dominant form infecting people." The US has reported a total of 2,795,437 cases of the disease. 129,438 people have died of it since it gained a foothold within the country in January. Wochit


A mutant strain of the coronavirus that surfaced in the United Kingdom last month has not been reported in New Jersey — yet. Virus experts are watching warily, conceding that its spread is virtually inevitable.

New York state reported Monday that a man in his 60s in Saratoga Springs was the first known case of the virus variant, known as B.1.1.7, in that state. California, Colorado and Florida also have reported cases, in addition to several European countries.

"All the major medical centers throughout the state are on high alert for this," said Dr. David Perlin, chief scientific officer at the Center for Discovery and Innovation of Hackensack Meridian Health. "To me, it's just a matter of time." 

His Nutley lab has analyzed the genetic makeup of virus samples from more than 100 patients recently diagnosed with COVID-19 at the health system's 14 hospitals.

"We have not seen it," he said of the new strain.

Neither has the state Department of Health. It had received no reports of the mutant strain "at this time," Donna Leusner, its spokeswoman, said Monday.

The state public health laboratory scans specimens to see if a particular pattern is present in the molecular tests for COVID, she said. If the pattern is found, the state lab sends the sample to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta for analysis. The state lab is expected to start testing for the variant soon itself, she said. 

As viruses replicate billions of times in a pandemic, they develop slight variations in their genetic code, a process known as genetic drift. Some of the variations are insignificant, but others may cause changes in the way the virus binds with human cells or acts in the human body.

The B.1.1.7 variation that has led to massive lockdowns in the United Kingdom is reported to be much more transmissible than the initial common strain of the virus, yet not to cause more severe disease.

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But simply by increasing the number of people who become infected and sick, the mutant virus could lead to more hospitalizations. While New Jersey currently has many fewer patients hospitalized with COVID than it did during the spring, in other states, such as California, the health care systems are already overwhelmed. 

The good news, however, is that the change does not make currently available vaccines ineffective, said Dr. Reynold Panettieri, vice chancellor at the Rutgers Institute for Translational Medicine and Science. 

"The data from where the virus variant was recently observed in the U.K. shows that the mutation in the spike protein would not affect the immunity generated by a vaccine," Panettieri said.

The spikes on the outside of the coronavirus, which give it the crown-like appearance for which it is named, are key to the virus's ability to enter human cells and multiply. The vaccines currently being administered in the United States teach the body's immune system to recognize and attack those spike proteins.

 "We're wary of it," Panettieri said of the new strain. Asked about its spreading to New Jersey, he said, "It's going to happen, much like the second surge was going to come." 

Lindy Washburn is a senior health care reporter for To keep up-to-date about how changes in the medical world affect the health of you and your family, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.


Twitter: @lindywa 

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