Coronavirus strand found in Houston could lead to possible vaccine

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A new study is giving scientists better insight into the most common coronavirus strains found in the Houston area that cause COVID-19.

Researchers at Houston Methodist Hospital took samples from 320 positive COVID-19 tests collected from the hospital system's testing sites in March. They analyzed the RNA and found that the most common strains came from Europe, Asia and South America around the same time in late February or early March.

"It probably largely reflects the fact that we are very diverse, a very international city, major transportation hub and major shipping port. So, we have a lot of travelers and a lot of global commerce that moves throughout the city, and that's probably a reflection of that," said Dr. Wesley Long, a co-author of the study.

The good news is that the most common strains found in the Houston area don't appear to be more contagious or harmful to the body than many other strains.

Long said this information allows them to better understand how the virus works and the origin of any new infection spikes as cases increase.

"It helps us identify how the virus moves through the community," Long said. "It also helps us monitor for particular mutations, which might be involved with antiviral drug resistance or resistance to Remdesivir. It also helps us identify mutations in the viral spike protein which may be key to vaccine efforts or vaccine development and research of that nature. It might play a role in our ongoing convalescent plasma research."

The study still needs to undergo peer review before it can be formally published, which Long said could take several weeks to complete.

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