March 03, 2021 – Cases of every worrisome type of virus that causes COVID-19 have been recorded in Houston, according to a new large study of genome sequencing.
Public health authorities identified the six variants that were identified in the study as problematic, because they contain genetic changes that may make the virus more contagious or help it escape immunity from vaccines or previous infections.
The new finding comes as Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that he would lift mask authorization there, and “unlock Texas at 100%”.
The pre-print study, which has not been fully examined by outside scientists, decoded the genomes of SARS-CoV2 viruses isolated from more than 20,400 COVID patients, a number that represents about 4% of all COVID cases seen in that city over the course of the year. the past .
Houston is the fourth largest city in the United States with an ethnically diverse population and an international port. It is also home to some of the nation’s best virus hunters.
Keith Jerome, MD, chair of the department of virology at the University of Washington in Seattle, said the study used a large enough sample of viruses to give a “deep and realistic” picture of the situation there.
“This is a very impressive job,” said Jerome, who was not involved in the research. “It’s one of the most comprehensive looks we’ve gotten from viruses in a particular region anywhere in the United States.”
The study authors say Houston may be the first city to find all the variants, but it is likely not the only one to have it.
“It’s possible that there are other cities in the country that have all of these variables and are simply unaware,” said study author Wesley Long, medical director of Diagnostic Microbiology at Houston Methodist Hospital.
The genomes analyzed for the study date back to March 2020. The Houston Methodist Health System is part of a global network of genome sequencing laboratories called the ARTIC Network, which is always looking for new viral variants.
Long says the variants discovered in the study first appeared in testing in December, and more cases were detected in January and February of this year.