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This coronavirus variant went undetected for months

A new study suggests an undetected coronavirus variant went undetected within 15 countries for months before it was finally found

Marlon Armirez collects saliva for COVID-19 testing through the Wellness Bus and a University of Utah Health medical team at the Utah State Fairpark in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020.
Marlon Armirez collects saliva for COVID-19 testing through the Wellness Bus and a University of Utah Health medical team at the Utah State Fairpark in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020. A new study suggests an undetected coronavirus variant went undetected within 15 countries for months before it was finally found.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

A new study from the University of Texas at Austin has found that a highly contagious coronavirus variant was not detected for months in the United States before it was finally discovered.

What the University of Texas study said

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin COVID-19 Modeling Consortium found the contagious COVID-19 variant originally discovered in the United Kingdom in December 2020 was already in the United States in October 2020.

The researchers said the coronavirus variant B117 went undetected throughout the entire world when scientists discovered it.

Lauren Ancel Meyers, the director of the COVID-19 Modeling Consortium at the University of Texas at Austin, said in a statement that the discovery of the U.K. variant came too late.

  • “By the time we learned about the U.K. variant in December, it was already silently spreading across the globe,” she said. “We estimate that the B117 variant probably arrived in the U.S. by October of 2020, two months before we knew it existed.”

Details of the University of Texas study

The researchers analyzed data from 15 countries to see what the chances were that travelers from the U.K. brought the variant to those 15 countries. The study found that the variants likely came between Sept. 22, 2020, and Dec. 7, 2020.

  • The scientists predicted that the virus likely came to the U.S. by mid-October.

Concerns over U.K. variant

In February, experts worried the U.K. coronavirus variant would become the most dominant strain in the world, per BBC News.

Similarly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in January 2021 that the variant would become the dominant U.S. strain, as I wrote about for the Deseret News.

However, Moderna and Pfizer said their respective COVID-19 vaccines are effective against COVID-19 variants, according to Axios.