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And Now Spreading in the US

The SARS-CoV-2 variant identified in the UK, dubbed B.1.1.7, is now spreading in the US, the Washington Post reports. It adds that this variant is suspected to be more easily transmitted than the original pandemic strain and could soon become the dominant strain circulating in the US.

A Scripps Research Institute-led team examined the prevalence of the strain in the US based on both the slightly different pattern of PCR testing results it gives and follow-up sequencing of those samples. In a preprint posted to MedRxiv, they report that the strain was introduced into the US numerous times since the end of November 2020 and that, given that many initial B.1.1.7 US cases were not linked to international travel, there appears to be community transmission of the strain.

They further report that while this strain is currently at a low frequency in the US, it appears to be doubling every week and a half, the Post notes.

"There could indeed be a very serious situation developing in a matter of months or weeks," Nicholas Davies, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who was not involved in the study, tells the New York Times. "These may be early signals warranting urgent investigation by public health authorities."

The Scan

Positive Framing of Genetic Studies Can Spark Mistrust Among Underrepresented Groups

Researchers in Human Genetics and Genomics Advances report that how researchers describe genomic studies may alienate potential participants.

Small Study of Gene Editing to Treat Sickle Cell Disease

In a Novartis-sponsored study in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that a CRISPR-Cas9-based treatment targeting promoters of genes encoding fetal hemoglobin could reduce disease symptoms.

Gut Microbiome Changes Appear in Infants Before They Develop Eczema, Study Finds

Researchers report in mSystems that infants experienced an enrichment in Clostridium sensu stricto 1 and Finegoldia and a depletion of Bacteroides before developing eczema.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Specificity Enhanced With Stem Cell Editing

A study in Nature suggests epitope editing in donor stem cells prior to bone marrow transplants can stave off toxicity when targeting acute myeloid leukemia with immunotherapy.