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Coronavirus now mutated, more stable, infectious

The SARS-CoV-2 variant of coronavirus underwent a D614G mutation that was absent in the earliest regional outbreaks

The result of one of the latest scientists by experts at the Scripps Research Institute in Florida, the United States, suggests that the new coronavirus may have mutated and is, therefore, more infectious. The study published by the institute on 12 June states, “COVID-19-causing viral variant taking over in the United States and Europe now carries more functional, cell-binding spikes.”

Laboratory experiments performed at the institute revealed that a tiny genetic mutation in the SARS coronavirus 2 variant circulating throughout Europe and the US significantly increases the virus’s ability to infect cells.

“Viruses with this mutation were much more infectious than those without the mutation in the cell culture system we used,” Scripps Research virologist Hyeryun Choe, PhD, and senior author of the study said about the new strains of coronavirus.

Scientists have been speculating for the past few months why COVID-19 outbreaks in some parts of the world quickly overwhelmed health systems while at other locations the administrations managed the outbreak promptly. “Was it something about those communities and their response, or had the virus somehow changed?”

The study by Scripps Research Institute explained how all viruses mutated and changed to some degree, but those changes “rarely impact fitness or ability to compete”.

The significant change in the SARS-CoV-2 variant was the presence of D614G mutation that was absent in the earliest regional outbreaks seen in Wuhan of the Hubei province in China.

However, the experts have called for more research, concluding that the COVID-19 virus might have eventually found out how to be more stable and not fall apart.

“Over time, it has figured out how to hold on better and not fall apart until it needs to,” co-author Michael Farzan, PhD, co-chairman of the Scripps Research Department of Immunology and Microbiology said. “The virus has, under selection pressure, made itself more stable,” he added.

By Chaitali Bhattacharjee

PhD in molecular biology, former Young Scientist, working in the life science and healthcare industry since 2007

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