6 things to know about the COVID-19 variant spreading in the UK

A new variant of the COVID-19 virus is spreading across the United Kingdom, according to The New York Times.

Here are six things to know:

1. The virus variant is 70 percent more contagious than other variants and has about 20 mutations, some of which affect how the virus connects with human cells to infect them.

2. There are differences in the variant's viral genetic code that make it less susceptible to some antibodies.

3. The mutation affecting the variants' vulnerability to antibodies is caused by three missing letters in the genetic code. Coronavirus variants with the same mutation were identified in Thailand and Germany early this year and in Denmark and England in August.

4. Jesse Bloom, an evolutionary biologist at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, said it will take years for the virus to evolve in a way that would make vaccines useless.

5. British officials have not found the new virus variant to cause more serious illness than other variants. There are thousands of coronavirus variants around the globe, according to a separate New York Times report.

6. After hearing news of the highly contagious variant, more than 40 countries placed restrictions on U.K. travelers.

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