PEKIN, IL – A new mutation of COVID-19, which may be linked to the variant from the United Kingdom, has been detected by Reditus Laboratories in Pekin.
The novel SARS-CoV-2 Spike 69-70 deletion, also known as V70X, was detected in tests run this week at the lab. The specimens came from testing conducted in DuPage County.
The mutation was detected in two people who are believed to be the first two confirmed cases of the 69-70 deletion lineage in Illinois, said Reditus CEO Dr. Aaron Rossi. Twelve cases of the mutation were confirmed nationwide earlier this month.
The 69-70 deletion has been suggested to be a mutation in the B.1.1.7 lineage first identified in the United Kingdom. The UK variant was identified in Illinois earlier this month and Illinois Department of Public Health has confirmed nine cases of the UK variant this week.
Rossi said he was anticipating additional mutations of COVID-19. Viruses change through mutation and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said. Variants of the virus that cause COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) have been documented during the pandemic.
“What this (detection of the 69-70 deletion) tells us is the virus is consistently mutating at a more rapid pace,” Rossi said. “The general consensus is the mutations are more contagious (spreading more easily) than the earlier strain of the virus.”
While there was no evidence early on to indicate that the COVID-19 vaccines would not be effective against the new mutations, Rossi said some researchers are concerned whether the vaccines will be as protective against the new variants.
“It’s too early to tell if the vaccine will be effective against the variants,” Rossi said. “There is a lot of data we need to gather. Time will tell.”
Rossi recommends that people get vaccinated, if they choose to do so, but advised everyone continue to take precautions to reduce their risk, including wearing a mask, social distancing and frequent handwashing.
“If you are vaccinated, you are not bulletproof,” he said. “You can still test positive after you receive your vaccination.”
“This is an ever-evolving pandemic and we need to still be cautious, despite having vaccinations,” Rossi said. “There are still a lot of unknowns out there.”
Reditus Laboratories in Pekin was able to detect the 69-70 deletion with a new platform (called the Illumina NextSeq) that the lab began using this week. Since April, Reditus has performed more than 1.6 million COVID-19 tests from specimens collected at testing sites nationwide. Those include testing for community-based testing sites, Department of Corrections facilities, some schools, hospitals and long-term care facilities.
Reditus performs 85% of the COVID testing in Illinois, using gold-standard PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing.
By Paul Swiech
If you would like to schedule an interview with Dr. Aaron Rossi, please call Kristen Vroman, his executive assistant, at 309-336-4104, or email [email protected].
Reditus Laboratories is a full-service dermatopathology laboratory company with a heavy focus on molecular diagnostics.