Study confirms that new version of coronavirus spreads faster

Study confirms that new version of coronavirus spreads faster
Study confirms new version of coronavirus spreads faster. Source: Getty Images
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Daily US Times: A new version of coronavirus has spread from Europe to the US, a global study has found strong evidence about it. An international team of researchers reported Thursday that the new mutation makes the virus more likely to infect people but does not seem to make them any sicker than earlier variations of the virus.

Erica Ollmann Saphire of the La Jolla Institute for Immunology and the Coronavirus Immunotherapy Consortium, who worked on the study, says: “It is now the dominant form infecting people. This is now the virus.”

The study builds on some earlier work the team did that was released on a preprint server earlier in the year. It was published in the journal Cell.

A certain mutant version of the virus was taking over, shared information on genetic sequences had indicated that.

The team has now not only checked more genetic sequences. They have also run experiments involving animals, people, and cells in lab dishes that show the mutated version is more common and that it’s more infectious than other versions.

Saphire said: “We do know that the new virus is fitter. It doesn’t look at first glance as if it is worse.”

The mutation affects the spike protein — the structure the virus uses to get into the cells it infects. Researchers are now checking to see whether this affects whether the virus can be controlled by a vaccine. Current vaccines being tested mostly target the spike protein, but they were made using older strains of the virus.

The study confirms earlier work suggesting the mutation had made the new variant of virus more common. The new version of coronavirus mutation is named G614 by the researchers, and they show that it has almost completely replaced the first version to spread in Europe and the US, one called D614.

No effect on patient survival

In the report, theoretical biologist Bette Korber of Los Alamos National Laboratory and colleagues wrote: “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. Interestingly, we did not find evidence of G614 impact on disease severity,” the report added.

Lawrence Young, a professor of medical oncology at the UK’s University of Warwick, considers it as good news.

The new mutation is named G614. Source: AP

The team tested samples taken from patients across the US and Europe and sequenced the genomes. They compared these genome sequences to what’s been shared publicly, and comparing these sequences helped them draw a map of the spread of the two forms.

Even when the D614 form had caused widespread epidemics, in places such h as Nottingham and Wales in England, as well as in Washington state, G614 took over once it appeared, they found.

Three to nine times more infectious

The researchers said the new version of the virus seems to multifly faster in the upper respiratory tract — the throat, sinuses, and noses — which would explain why it passes around more easily.

But tests on 1,000 hospitalized coronavirus patients in the UK showed those infected with the new version did not fare any worse than those who caught the original strain.

Duke University’s David Montefiore and colleagues tested the virus in the lab. Montefiore, director of the Laboratory for AIDS Vaccine Research and Development, said: “We were able to test whether the G form of the virus was more infectious than the D form.”

According to him, all the results agreed that the G form was three to nine times more infectious than the D form.

The researchers had worried if the new mutation made the virus to higher level or makes grow faster, it would take more immune system effort to neutralize it.

Saphire said: “In these six San Diegans, that wasn’t the case.”

Of course, more work is needed to solidify the findings and to see what the changes mean for the epidemic and for patients, the researchers said.

Montefiore said: “There are potential consequences for the vaccines. We are actively investigating those possible consequences.”

The researchers are keeping an eye out for other mutations.

Saphire said they might have dodged a bullet with this particular mutation.

“However, that is not to say that another mutation couldn’t come on top of this one,” she added.

Mesnwhile, the UK has published a full list of countries for which quarantine will not apply to people arriving back in England. Countries including France, Belgium, Greece and Spain are on the list, which comes into effect from 10 July.

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