Arizona universities team up to detect COVID-19 mutations

Scientists from three public universities in Arizona have joined together to analyze test samples and detect COVID-19 mutations, officials said.

COVID-19 mutations have been occurring with several variants already identified, including one first detected in the United Kingdom that is seemingly more contagious. More than 600 cases of the variant have been identified in the United States.

Now, University of Arizona, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University are working to analyze samples for genetic anomalies.

"The concern, of course, is you get one of these mutations that take hold and there’s no vaccine that can protect you," University of Arizona president Robert Robbins said.

Scientists at Arizona State University helped detect the U.K. variant in Arizona last week.

"If we allow this virus to continue to evolve into the human species at scale, we will get mutations for which there is no defense," Arizona State University President Michael Crow said. "I want that to sink in — mutations for which there is no defense because it has worked its way around everything we can do."

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The COVID-19 vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna authorized for use in the U.S. offer immunity to the UK variant. They are less effective against another variant discovered in South Africa.

"The longer we don’t vaccinate people, the virus has a bigger chance to mutate," Robbins said.

Arizona on Friday reported 3,826 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases and 196 deaths.

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