Nearly one year into the pandemic, COVID-19 is spreading at record high rates in the United States, and with it, new variants of the virus are emerging. Last week, researchers in Ohio said they identified two unique variants in Columbus, NBC News reports.
Experts agree that it’s not surprising that new variants have emerged in the U.S., but stress that the virus’s unchecked transmission in the country provides ample opportunities for it to mutate. The best way, therefore, to crack down on new variants is to stop the spread, they say.
“The only way to [stop emergence of new variants] is to stop the spread of the virus,” said Ben Bimber, a research professor at Oregon Health and Science University.
“Every time the virus replicates, it’s an opportunity to mutate,” he said. “If there's more people infected, there's simply more virus out there and it has more opportunities to mutate.”
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When the coronavirus infects an individual, it enters the cells and makes copies of itself. “Every time the virus copies itself, there's a chance to introduce errors,” Bimber said. “If the virus is replicating in people, it will slowly accumulate mutations.”
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