New York: The B117, the highly contagious SARS-CoV-2 variant, had spread across 15 countries by mid-November last year, says a study published in the journal 'Emerging Infectious Diseases'. The spread of this new variant, which is more lethal than the original coronavirus strain, signifies the need for more laboratory surveillance.
According to the study, the B1117 variant was first discovered in the United Kingdom in early December 2020, but it was already spreading silently across the globe.
"We estimate that the B117 variant probably arrived in the US by October of 2020, two months before we knew it existed," said Lauren Ancel Meyers, Professor of integrative biology at the University of Texas at Austin.
The study subjected data from 15 countries and inferred that travellers from the UK introduced the lethal variant into 15 other countries between September 22 and December 7, 2020. The variant arrived in the US by mid-October, the report adds.
"This study highlights the importance of laboratory surveillance," Meyers said. "Rapid and extensive sequencing of virus samples is critical for early detection and tracking of new variants of concern," she added.
The research team developed a novel online calculator that can mark the number of virus samples that must be sequenced to detect new variants when they are first sighted. The calculator could boost genetic sequencing to detect fresh variants.
"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," said Spencer Woody, a postdoctoral fellow of the Texas University.
The calculator also helps labs to figure out how quickly they will detect new variants.