New research shows how COVID-19 variants have evolved

Local non-profit tracking new COVID-19 variants in Bexar County
Local non-profit tracking new COVID-19 variants in Bexar County

New research is shedding light on how COVID-19 variants have evolved since the start of the pandemic, which doctors say is important to understand.

“The pieces are there, the puzzle is starting to be solved. This is one of those things that helps us understand how we got where we are right now and why things look the way they do. And honestly, predicts what they may look like as we continue to go forward,” said Dr. Frank Esper, infectious disease specialist for Cleveland Clinic Children’s.

Esper was in charge of the research, which looked at variants from the first six weeks of the pandemic. That time frame was chosen because therapies and treatments had not yet been introduced.

They discovered that the original variants were quick to mutate. They also found that as variants progressed early in the pandemic, they became less severe but more contagious.

He said they still have a lot to learn about the current variants circulating, including how they interact with the vaccine. However, by knowing what they do now, they’re better able to predict patient outcomes and adjust mitigation efforts.

“Each of these strains may have a different effect on a person’s severity of illness. And so trying to figure out what strains are worse than others will give us a better risk estimate as a physician, when I am going to be taking care of these patients, what to expect, who is at higher risk than others,” Esper explained.

Esper encourages everyone to get vaccinated, which he said will not only help slow the spread of the virus but stop new variants from forming.