More infectious coronavirus mutation is now 'most common strain'July 3, 2020
A new, more infectious mutation of coronavirus is now the most common strain, researchers have warned.
Covid-19 has improved its ability to enter and infect human cells since it was first discovered last year, research from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, Duke University and the University of Sheffield suggests.
While the strain is capable of spreading easier, it, fortunately, does not appear to cause a more severe form of the disease.
It comes as nearly 11 million people across the globe are confirmed to have been hit with coronavirus, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.
The new prominent variant, named ‘D614G’, has a small but effective change in the ‘spike’ protein that protrudes from the surface of the virus, allowing it to infect humans easier, researchers believe.
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Scientists came to the conclusion after anaylsing viral data through the GISAID database, including tens of thousands of viral sequences that demonstrate how the virus has evolved over time across the globe.
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.
‘Data provided by our team in Sheffield suggested that the new strain was associated with higher viral loads in the upper respiratory tract of patients with Covid-19, meaning the virus’s ability to infect people could be increased.’
He added: ‘Fortunately at this stage, it does not seem that viruses with D614G cause more severe disease.’
Dr Bette Korber, from the Los Alamos National Laboratory, 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.’
The official UK coronavirus death toll passed 44,000 today after another 137 people lost their lives.
It comes ahead of so-called ‘Super Saturday’, with pubs, restaurants and hairdressers all opening tomorrow.
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