Study: Mutation causing COVID-19 to be more contagious

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A health official prepares to take samples for a coronavirus test. (AP Photo/George Calin)

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A worldwide study of the coronavirus released in the journal Cell indicates that the dominant strand of COVID-19 is causing the virus to spread faster.

But the study’s authors said that even though the coronavirus is able to spread faster, the virus is no more or less severe than earlier in the outbreak.

The study’s authors indicate that the virus has mutated, and that the Spike protein amino acid D614G has become the virus’ dominant strand.

“Our global tracking data show that the G614 variant in Spike has spread faster than D614. We interpret this to mean that the virus is likely to be more infectious,” study author Bette Korber of Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The federal government’s leading infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci addressed concerns that the virus could be more contagious in an interview with The Journal of the American Medical Association on Thursday.

“The data is showing there’s a single mutation that makes the virus be able to replicate better and maybe have high viral loads,” Dr. Fauci said. “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 may be more transmissible.”

Korbe explained in the study how the dominant strand of the virus differs from earlier variants.

“In infected individuals G614 is associated with lower RTPCR cycle thresholds, suggestive of higher upper respiratory tract viral loads, although not with increased disease severity,” Korbe said. “These findings illuminate changes important for a mechanistic understanding of the virus, and support continuing surveillance of Spike mutations to aid in the development of immunological interventions.”

To read the full study, click here.

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