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3 Tokyo patients infected with virus strains unseen before in community transmission

This electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases shows a new strain of the coronavirus which originated in the U.K.

TOKYO -- Tokyo Medical and Dental University announced Jan. 29 that three of its hospitalized patients have contracted new strains of the coronavirus which originated overseas and whose community transmission had not been seen before in the country.

    The new virus strains differ from the coronavirus variant found in the United Kingdom, which is said to be more transmissible than the strain that has so far infected many people in Japan. However, it is possible that an influx of various strains will influence the spread of infections in the country, the university said.

    Test samples of the three individuals were collected between November and December 2020. According to the university, three virus variants were discovered, and although they are U.K.-derived, their DNA sequences and properties were different from that of the new strain of the coronavirus that has been spreading across the world. The three variants were earlier found during airport quarantine inspections in Japan, but cases of their community transmission had not been seen.

    The three patients had not been to the U.K., and it is believed that the infections occurred via community transmission. Two individuals developed severe symptoms, but it is apparently unclear whether their conditions were related to the virus variants.

    (Japanese original by Ayumu Iwasaki and Ryo Watanabe, Science & Environment News Department)

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