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New Change Reported

A new SARS-CoV-2 gene variant has been identified in the UK, Reuters reports.

It adds that UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said the variant has been identified in more than 1,000 cases, particularly in southern England. 

The Guardian reports that Hancock told Parliament that the variant was identified through genomic analyses and could be linked to increased spread in the region, but that there is no evidence that the variant is associated with more severe disease. "But it shows we've got to be vigilant and follow the rules and everyone needs to take personal responsibility not to spread this virus," he added, according to the Guardian. BBC News adds London and some nearby areas are moving to tier three restrictions — the highest level — on Wednesday, which entails restaurants and pubs closing or shifting to to-go or delivery orders and places limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings.

The World Health Organization's Mike Ryan said during a briefing that the agency was aware of the variant, Reuters reports. "Authorities are looking at its significance," he added. "We have seen many variants, this virus evolves and changes over time."

In September, for instance, researchers at Houston Methodist Hospital found that a strain with a Gly614 change outspread other strains.

The Scan

Omicron's Emergence

The World Health Organization has called Omicron a SARS-CoV-2 "variant of concern," the Los Angeles Times writes.

Not as Much

Merck's pill to treat COVID-19 reduces the risk of hospitalization and death among COVID-19 patients by less than previously reported, the New York Times says.

Bats That Hang Together

Discover magazine writes that researchers have found a social microbiome among vampire bats.

PLOS Papers on CEWAS, Simian Varicella Virus Transcriptome, Dermatomyositis Markers

In PLOS this week: multi-omic approach to home in on genetic risk variants, transcriptomic analysis of the simian varicella virus, and more.