A team of researchers discovered seven distinctive variants of the novel coronavirus spread across the United States, new strains that are unique to and mutated within the US, according to a recent study.The seven mutations of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, were discovered between August and November of 2020. All were found to be within the same growing lineage.Mentioning the more contagious variants emerging from the UK and South Africa, the study authors said that seven mutant lineages in the US show no signatures of increased transmissibility and noted none of which have become prominent in the United States. "Selectively neutral mutations can become fixed in a lineage purely by chance and human behavior," the study said. "Therefore, SARS-CoV-2 variants can emerge and increase greatly in number over time in the absence of any clear or sustained selective advantage."One of the co-authors of the study, Jeremy Kamil, a virologist at Louisiana State University (LSU), spoke with The New York Times and said that he was sequencing coronavirus test samples from Louisiana when he came across new variants of the virus. Kamil uploaded the viral strains he uncovered onto an online database, and after receiving an email from a researcher at the University of New Mexico, co-author of the study Daryl Domman, the two found that the same lineage had also appeared in both places and dove in further to investigate.What’s troublesome about the mutation is that it appears within a gene that influences how the virus interacts with human cells, potentially making it effortless for the virus to enter and latch onto our cells, and invade our immune system, according to the report.“There’s clearly something going on with this mutation,” Kamil told the Times. “I think there’s a clear signature of an evolutionary benefit," he said, noting the mutation's strengths. The lineage discovered by Kamil had independently gained a mutation in the 677th amino acid in the genetic sequence, as did the other six instances found across the country.Logically, the perfect superpower for a virus would be the increased ability to latch onto and infect an organism more easily and effectively. To survive over the many months it has, the coronavirus has adapted to its human host in more ways than one, as scientists have proven.The variation in the 677th amino acid found in the seven mutant lineages made it potentially easier for the “spike” of the coronavirus - the part used by the virus to latch onto the surface of human cells and which gives it its distinctive shape - to be activated, which could result in a subsequent infection.It's not to say that the virus is more contagious, more deadly or spreads at a more rapid pace, but it is to say that encounters with the viral strain could mean a higher percentage of infection. As well, the common appearance of the viral mutation in samples over the course of the study could be due to sporadic outbreaks, super-spreader events or even holiday travel, epidemiologist at the University of Bern and study co-author Emma Hodcroft told the Times, noting there are a number of reasons for increased sightings of the virus.A structural biologist uninvolved in the study told the Times he views it as "an important advance" but notes the way the virus interacts with other organisms needs more investigation into the mutation's functionality.“It’s tough to know what these substitutions are doing,” said Jason McLellan, of the University of Texas. “It really needs to be followed up with some additional experimental data.”To confirm and truly understand the data, the report notes that scientists would need to examine a larger set of coronavirus samples than are available now.As of yet, the exact origins of each of the viral mutation lineages is inconclusive. Some of the strains are prominent across the Midwest, others across the coasts. They are, however, unique to the US and each lineage tends to be a common sighting within their own sectors of the country. The study was published on Sunday in MedRxiv and has yet to be peer-reviewed.