‘Coronavirus has mutated to become more easily transmissible’

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on July 03, 2020 Published on July 03, 2020

White House health advisor Dr Anthony Fauci says the mutation has made it possible for the virus to replicate more easily

The novel coronavirus has mutated to become more easily transmissible, according to the US’ virology expert and White House health advisor, Dr Anthony Fauci.

Fauci, in an interview with The Journal of the American Medical Association, said the virus is mutating in a way that is likely to make it more transmissible. Citing a recent study on coronavirus mutation, published in the journal Cell, Fauci said, “The data shows there’s a single mutation that makes the virus able to replicate better and maybe have high viral loads. We don’t have a connection to whether an individual does worse with this or not; it just seems that the virus replicates better and maybe is more transmissible.”

At least five laboratory experiments conducted so far, including the study led by scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and published Thursday in the journal Cell, suggest mutations in the virus that may be making it more infectious, the Washington Post reported.

The genetic variation of the virus that is dominant across the world today infects humans more easily than the version of the virus that was present when the pandemic originated in China, according to the study.

Researchers from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and Duke University in North Carolina analysed genome samples published on GISAID, an international resource for genomes, in collaboration with the University of Sheffield's Covid-`9 Genomics UK research group, AFP reported.

According to a study by the Scripps Research Institute, published on the pre-print server BioRxiv, the mutation in the SARS-CoV2 is giving it more spikes. This helps it enter the host cells more easily, according to an India Today report.

A similar mutation was observed by Dr Egon Ozer, an infectious-disease specialist at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. According to Ozer’s observations, a protein had formed on the surface of the virus, with approximately 1,300 amino acids serving as building blocks for the same, the Washington Post reported.

In the mutated version of the virus, the genetic instructions for one of those acids, number 614, had switched from a “D” (shorthand for aspartic acid) to a “G” (short for glycine), creating a new variant called D614G.

Though the mutation had made the virus 10 times more infectious than the original virus in the lab experiments, it doesn't seem to cause more severity among infected patients, the studies said.

"A few mutations can result in the virus changing and what we're always watching out for is any change that changes the clinical impact of the disease," World Health Organisation Executive Director Michael J Ryan said at a press briefing, as quoted by an India Today report.

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Published on July 03, 2020
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