Coronavirus Mutation Could Make It More Infectious

According to a new study, the mutation of a SARS-CoV-2 variant is significantly increasing its ability to infect people.

COVID-19 Mutation Increases Its Ability To Infect People

As per a new research released by the Scripps Research Institute, a variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that is circulating through Europe and the United States is reportedly undergoing a mutation that is making it even deadlier since its ability to infect people is being increased steadily. The study was based out of lab experiments performed at Scripps Research.

“Viruses with this mutation were much more infectious than those without the mutation in the cell culture system we used. The mutation had the effect of markedly increasing the number of functional spikes on the viral surface. Those spikes are what allow the virus to bind to and infect cells. The number—or density—of functional spikes on the virus is 4 or 5 times greater due to this mutation,” Hyeryun Choe, Scripps Research virologist and senior author of the study, said.

Per Choe, these spikes are behind the crown-like appearance of the coronavirus and give it the ability to latch onto target cell receptors that are called ACE2. Dubbed as D614G, the new mutation now provides even greater flexibility to the “backbone” of these spikes, giving them the ability to travel from cell to cell with less tendency to fall apart prematurely. All in all, this increases the virus’ ability to infect more people.

While there has been debate about whether the early COVID-19 outbreaks in Italy and New York have overwhelmed health systems because the virus has changed over time, there is no question that viruses acquire minute genetic changes as they reproduce. However, Choe believes that the “founder effect,” which happens when a small number of variants spread into a large population, is caused by what they discovered in their biochemical experiments.

“There have been at least a dozen scientific papers talking about the predominance of this mutation. Are we just seeing a ‘founder effect?’ Our data nails it. It is not the founder effect,” Michael Farzan, study co-author and co-chairman of the Scripps Research Department of Immunology and Microbiology, said.

Coronavirus & COVID-19 An artist's representation of the novel coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 disease. Pixabay

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