A digitally-enhanced microscopic image shows a coronavirus infection in blue. (CDC/Hannah A Bullock/Azaibi Tami)

Batch of Homegrown Coronavirus Mutations Seen in U.S.

Researchers said Sunday they have identified a batch of similar troubling mutations in coronavirus samples circulating in the United States. They’ve not only drawn attention to them; they’ve come up with a better shorthand for referring to them. They’ve named them after birds.

The mutations all affect the same stretch of the spike protein — the knob-like extension on the outside of the virus that it uses to dock onto the cells it infects, the researchers wrote in a pre-print report. It’s not peer reviewed yet, but researchers are rushing such findings online to share them quickly with other experts.

The genetic stretch that is mutated, or changed, is called 677. The various changes are so similar that the researchers think evolution favors these particular variants. And it’s in a troubling place, said Vaughn Cooper, director of the Center for Evolutionary Biology and Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, who worked on the study.

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