The Covid-19 coronavirus has undergone numerous mutations since emerging in China late last year, and according to a new study recently published in the journal Cell, the form of the virus which is currently most dominant in the world today is more transmissible than the first strain recorded.
Researchers from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and Duke University in North Carolina partnered with the University of Sheffield’s COVID-19 Genomics UK research group to analyze genome samples published on GISAID, an international resource for sharing genome sequences, according to AFP.
After the study’s initial preprint publication in BioRxiv in April, the editors of Cell asked the team to go back and do further research to prove that mutation they found was actually responsible for its new features. The editors wanted to ensure that this was actually a matter of causation and not just random correlation.
The team went back and analyzed the data of 999 British patients who were hospitalized with the virus and found that the patients with the mutated strain had more viral particles in them, but they noted that this did not cause the virus to be more severe. In the lab, the team found that the mutated strain is three to six times more capable of infecting human cells.
”It seems likely that it’s a fitter virus,” said Erica Ollmann Saphire, one of the researchers involved with the experiments at La Jolla Institute for Immunology.
Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that much more research is needed to confirm these preliminary findings.
”I think the data is showing that there is a single mutation that actually makes the virus be able to replicate better, and maybe have high viral loads. 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, but this is still at the stage of trying to confirm that,” he said.
As Truth Theory reported last month, the virus may have been with us for much longer than experts realized. Researchers at the University of Barcelona have published new findings that suggest the virus that causes COVID-19 has been found in sewage samples from March of 2019.