CARBONDALE, Ill. (KMOV.com) – A new variant of the COVID-19 virus that is specific and dominant in the United States has been discovered by a team led by researchers from Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Keith Gagnon, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the university, said the new variant was discovered while doing genome sequencing in search of a U.K. variant. He said the new version of the virus is a U.S.-specific coronavirus variant.

"We traced back the genomic data as far as we could. The earliest variant we could be absolutely sure of, genomic date, is May 20 in the Houston Texas area," said Gagnon.

Gagnon said the variant appears to be easier to spread but more research will need to confirm that. He also said he believes the variant is responsible for the end of the second and the entire third wave of the pandemic.

"As many as one in two people have had this variant or will get this variant," Gagnon said.

Gagnon said that there's no reason to believe that the current vaccines are any less effective against the U.S. variant. But he said scientists will need to monitor how it evolves as it makes its way through the population.

Copyright 2021 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

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