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CoronaVirus - Top News - July 4, 2020

New version of Coronavirus spreads faster but no evidence of making people sicker, Studies confirm

Studies confirm that the new mutated strain of novel coronavirus spreads faster but doesn’t make people sicker than the older version. An international study shows strong evidence that a new strain of coronavirus has spread from Europe to United States. An international researchers team revealed the study results on Thursday.

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

“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.”

Bette Korber, theoretical biologist of Los Alamos National Laboratory

The study was published in the journal ‘Cell’ which was an extension of work done by the team earlier in the year. The genetic sequences information shared suggested that some amount of mutation of the virus was definitely taking over. The research team has checked more genetic sequences along with running experiments on people, animals and also cells in laboratories in petri dishes. The elaborate and extensively diverse study has strongly shown evidence that mutated version is increasingly common and is more infectious than other versions of the coronavirus.

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

The studies have shown the mutation to be affecting spike protein of the virus, which is the structure that virus uses to penetrate cells for infection. The researchers are now studying whether this changes the effects of vaccine on virus. The fact that vaccines under trial and in process of mass production are all targeting the spike protein part of virus, makes it difficult to analyze the impact of vaccine on coronavirus – which have been prepared on older strains of virus.

The study also confirms the earlier work by research team that suggested mutation has caused the new strain of virus more common and more infective. The new mutation is being called G614 by the researchers. The research study has remarkably confirmed that this strain has nearly completely replaced the first strain or version of this virus D614 and is now spreading in Europe and the US.

Good news – No effect on patient survival or mortality

It’s a better news than a contrary one. The researchers say that this strain is not worsening the condition of patients and hence has no significant effect on the mortality rate.

Bette Korber, theoretical biologist of Los Alamos National Laboratory says, “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.”

This can be a good news. Medical Oncology professor Lawrence Young of University of Warwick, UK said, “The current work suggests that while the G614 variant may be more infectious, it is not more pathogenic. There is a hope that as SARS-CoV-2 infection spreads, the virus might become less pathogenic.”

Research team tested samples from patients across Europe and US and did genomic sequencing. When these genome sequences were compared to the earlier ones publicly shared, the mapping of present genome sequence could be established, helping in comparing the two strains.

Bad news – new strain is 3-9 times more infectious

The researchers have established that the new strain of coronavirus is more rapidly multiplying in the upper respiratory tract (nose, sinuses and throat). This can be an explanation as to how the virus is now multiple times more infectious. However, despite the increased infectivity rate the severity of infection is not spiking.

Researchers say that this new outcome confirms the recommendations of wearing masks and following social distancing even more – to curb the spread as infectivity has increased in the new version of virus.

The convalescent serum – component of blood from people already infected by the virus – seems to neutralize the G614 strain. Saphire’s team tested this hypothesis on six patients in San Diego – and they were successful. “We looked to see whether the range of antibodies in the blood of the people was just as effective at neutralizing the new virus as the old virus and it was. It was, in fact, a little better. That was a relief.”

Researchers are now focusing on the potential vaccine and also keeping a watch on any other mutation, which is very much possible.  

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