New strain of coronavirus detected in Southern Nevada lab test

Local News

The Nevada State Public Health Laboratory is responsible for COVID-19 testing and whole genome sequencing of the COVID-19 virus in Nevada. (Brin Reynolds/UNR Med)

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The new strain of coronavirus — B.1.1.7, also known as the U.K. strain — has been detected in a test conducted at the Southern Nevada Public Health Laboratory (SNPHL).

The new strain was detected in a test performed on a Las Vegas woman in her 30s, according to a statement Monday from the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory (NSPHL) at the UNR School of Medicine.

The specimen was collected during “routine community collection activities” and tested by SNPHL to determine if it was positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. During testing, it was discovered the specimen showed characteristics of the variant. It was then sent to NSPHL for sequencing and confirmation.

The NSPHL sequenced the specimen on Thursday, Jan. 21, and analyzed the data that detected the new strain of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in Nevada on Friday, Jan. 22.

NSPHL Director Mark Pandori, Ph.D. said the lab detected the case as part of its B.1.1.7 strain testing program.

Dr. Pandori says this strain is more contagious, but it is not yet known whether the variant causes a more severe illness than the COVID-19 strain.

“It is copying itself a lot right now, which can lead to mutating,” Pandori said. “The more a virus spreads in a community, the more opportunities it has to make mistakes when it copies itself. This leads to what we see here and it’s a very natural part of viral evolution.”

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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