Scientists and researchers have confirmed that there is a new strain of coronavirus that is more infectious than the last one.
According to a study that has been published in Cell, researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, Duke University in North Carolina, and the University of Sheffield's COVID-19 Genomics UK research group have analyzed genome samples of COVID-19 and have shown a certain mutation has become dominate in circulating strains. This variant of COVID-19 is called D614G, and according to full peer-reviewed study, the new D614G genome variant is more infectious under laboratory conditions.
Dr. Thushan de Silva, Senior Clinical Lecturer in Infectious Diseases at the University of Sheffield, said, "We have been sequencing SARS-CoV-2 strains in Sheffield since early in the pandemic and this allowed us to partner with our collaborators to show this mutation had become dominant in circulating strains. The full peer-reviewed study published today confirms this, and also that the new D614G genome mutation variant is also more infectious under laboratory conditions."
The researchers found through the data they gathered that the new strain was associated with higher viral loads in the upper respiratory tract of patients that have contracted COVID-19. At this stage of the research, scientists believe that this new strain doesn't cause more severe disease. Scientists found that the original strain of COVID-19 that came from Wuhan, China was different to what they have now found. The new strain has a small but significant variation. The change is in the "spike" gycoprotein that stick out on the surface of the virus. This part of the virus commonly referred to as the "spike protein" is what the virus uses to hook into and infect new human host cells.
Dr. Bette Korber, from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, and the lead author on the study said, "It is possible to track SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) evolution globally because researchers worldwide are rapidly making their viral sequence data available through the GISAID viral sequence database. Currently tens of thousands of sequences are available through this project, and this enabled us to identify the emergence of a variant that has rapidly become the globally dominant form."
Dr. Will Fischer, from Los Alamos National Laboratory and an author on the study, said, "It's remarkable to me. That this increase in infectivity was detected by careful observation of sequence data alone, and that our experimental colleagues could confirm it with live virus in such a short time."
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