A newer specific mutation found in SARS CoV2 may be responsible for the virus to spread more easily, suggests researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, NHS and the Duke Human Vaccine Institute and Department of Surgery, based on their recent study. The study paper, which was published in the bioRxiv preprint server, is yet to be peer-reviewed.
Upon analysing the genomes of the virus isolated from about 6,000 infected people from around the world, the scientists found 13 different mutations, of which the mutation named D614G stood out and was found in almost all samples obtained outside of China. The scientists focused most specifically on the virus genes that are responsible for producing the “spike protein,” which enables the virus to attach to human cells.
The D614G (also known as G614) mutation was found to replace the earlier existed D614 mutation found in the initial strains of the infectious virus obtained from China. The G614 mutation was observed in Europe and later found in samples from around the world, say the scientists, which is suspected to be the reason behind the viruses’ speedy dissemination.
They suggest that since the largely found G614 mutation bearing virus evolved from the initial mutation it could mean that it is more easily spread. After the mutation appeared in Europe, the G614 mutation began appearing in samples from other sites around the world, say the researchers suggesting that this newer strain may be responsible for causing a pandemic.
“The mutation Spike D614G is of urgent concern; after beginning to spread in Europe in early February, when introduced to new regions it repeatedly and rapidly becomes the dominant form,” stated the researchers.
However, more work may be required to ascertain whether any strains are more contagious than any other, and also to determine if the virus mutates at a rate that could outpace vaccine development.