Retracing the Path of a Virus
Here’s what we saw. For most of 2020, a variant called B.1.416 (which, for this story, we’ll call the Senegal/Gambian variant after its origin) circulated and dominated as the main strain in Senegal. It’s likely that the variant was a descendant from one of the initial cases of COVID-19 in the country, based on its mutations. This strain also traveled in and out of Africa, making its way to Europe, North America, Australia, and Asia.
Fast forward to 2021, and a variant called B.1.1.420 (which, for this story, we’ll call the Western Europe/U.S. variant after its origin) gained strength and speed and replaced the Senegal/Gambian variant in the country. While the rest of the world was combatting another strain of COVID-19 in early 2021, the Western Europe/U.S. variant kept its hold in Senegal, shutting out other variants, due to its unique makeup. With greater transmissibility, it traveled far and wide.
To better visualize these changes, Dr. Gregory Orf, senior scientist at Abbott, created a new mapping app, similar to a flight traffic map, to visualize COVID-19’s movement.
“By retracing the path of SARS-CoV-2 variants over time, we can understand how far and fast variants can travel and the mutations that help viruses spread more effectively,” he said. “That’s important because this information helps scientists know what to look for moving forward — what mutation combinations could form into variants of concern.”