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Tracking COVID-19 Variants with Ramón Lorenzo-Redondo, PhD

Since SARS-CoV-2 was discovered in Illinois over a year ago, Feinberg scientists have been tracking the evolution of the disease in the Chicago area. Ramón Lorenzo Redondo, PhD, research assistant professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases, is part of the team leading this work. He talks about the team's research, the new COVID-19 variants and how the vaccines on the market today stand up to them.

"We are allowing the virus to become better by replicating, generating diversity and selecting mutations. The main message is we need to lower the prevalence of the virus, because if not, the virus is going to keep improving — they keep evolving all the time."

—  Ramón Lorenzo-Redondo, PhD

Episode Notes

In this episode, Ramón Lorenzo Redondo, PhD, explains how viruses mutate and evolve and what we know about the SARS-CoV-2 virus and its many variants that are making headlines as the pandemic continues.

He explains how the Northwestern team  which includes Egon A. Ozer, MD, PhDJudd Hultquist, PhD, and Lacy Simons — has been sequencing specimens from positive COVID-19 patients since March of 2020 to better understand the variants circulating in the Chicago area. The team was the first to discover that the fast-spreading variant, which has overtaken the pandemic in the U.K., had made its way to Chicago. 

"The pace at which (the variants) are increasing in the population is also a little bit concerning," he says before emphasizing, "It's not a very scary thing. The same prevention measures work for each of these variants. You wear your mask, you do social distancing. This is not like the movies when the virus mutates and now it does something different. No, they just transmit much better." 

Fellows Scott Roberts, Hannah Nam and Lindsay Rachel Morrison also contributed to the team's research. 

Additional Reading: 

  • Lorenzo Redondo was the first author on the paper "A clade of SARS-CoV-2 viruses associated with lower viral loads in patient upper airways" in EBioMedicine, published by The Lancet. 
  • Read the press release from the Illinois Department of Public Health, confirming the first Illinois case of the COVID-19 variant first documented in the United Kingdom.

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Recorded on Feb. 8, 2021.

Continuing Medical Education Credit

Physicians who listen to this podcast may claim continuing medical education credit after listening to an episode of this program.

 
Target Audience

Academic/Research, Multiple specialties

Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of this activity, participants will be able to:

  1. Identify the research interests and initiatives of Feinberg faculty.
  2. Discuss new updates in clinical and translational research.
Accreditation Statement

The Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

Credit Designation Statement

The Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine designates this Enduring Material for a maximum of 0.5 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

Disclosure Statement

Ramón Lorenzo Redondo, PhD, has nothing to disclose. Course director, Robert Rosa, MD, has nothing to disclose. Planning committee member, Erin Spain, has nothing to disclose. Feinberg School of Medicine's CME Leadership and Staff have nothing to disclose: Clara J. Schroedl, MD, Medical Director of CME, Sheryl Corey, Manager of CME, Allison McCollum, Senior Program Coordinator, Katie Daley, Senior Program Coordinator, and Rhea Alexis Banks, Administrative Assistant 2.

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