OSU research detects COVID-19 'UK variant' in Grants Pass wastewater

An ongoing Oregon State University project monitoring the presence of coronavirus in wastewater samples detected the presence of the B.1.1.7 variant in early March.

Posted: Mar 31, 2021 4:54 PM
Updated: Mar 31, 2021 5:42 PM

GRANTS PASS, Ore. — An ongoing Oregon State University project monitoring the presence of coronavirus in wastewater samples throughout Oregon detected the presence of the B.1.1.7 strain, known commonly as the UK variant, in Grants Pass earlier this month.

The sample was collected back on March 8, according to OSU researcher Brett Tyler, director of the university's Center for Genome Research & Biocomputing. After genetic sequencing on the sample, researchers found evidence of the mutated strain first identified in the United Kingdom.

According to Tyler, the amount of B.1.1.7 detected in the sample suggests that there is probably a "substantial number" of people in the Grants Pass community carrying the variant — roughly in the range of 1 to 5 people out of every 1,000.

Tyler said that he was not aware of any people in the Grants Pass area who have been confirmed to be infected with the UK variant.

The Oregon Health Authority identified the first known case of the UK variant in the state back in mid-January. According to CDC data, there are presently 16 known cases in Oregon.

Researchers have acknowledged that many variant strains of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, have already been detected and will continue to emerge over time. But a few strains — particularly the ones detected in the U.K., South Africa, and Brazil — are believed to be more contagious than common variants, with mutations that allow the virus to more easily infect a person.

The first known case of the Brazil strain was detected in a Douglas County resident in early March. To date, it is still the only known case of that variant in Oregon.

The City of Grants Pass said that they were asked to participate in the OSU study sometime last year, and have been sending samples to the university periodically.

This is a developing story and will be updated with more details as they emerge.

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