In DepthCOVID-19

Fast-spreading U.K. virus variant raises alarms

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Science  01 Jan 2021:
Vol. 371, Issue 6524, pp. 9-10
DOI: 10.1126/science.371.6524.9


On 19 December 2020, the U.K. government announced that scientists had discovered a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 that appears to be spreading more rapidly and implemented stricter lockdown measures in London and southeast England to contain it. The lineage has apparently acquired 17 mutations that lead to amino acid changes in its proteins all at once, a feat never seen before in SARS-CoV-2. As this issue of Science went to press, scientists were still grappling to understand whether the variant really spreads faster, and if so, how. But its emergence drives home the notion that viral evolution could yet result in nasty surprises—just as the first effective vaccines are being rolled out.

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