Coronavirus updates: The first study to analyze the structure of the novel coronavirus from two waves of infection in the American city of Houston found that a more contagious strain dominates recent samples, researchers from Houston Methodist Hospital have said.
Coronavirus update, symptoms: Is COVID-19 becoming more potent and contagious? People have apprehensions whether severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) will become an even bigger threat than it is presently. The fear is justified because the prevalent Covid-19 pandemic has infected and killed lakhs, paralyzed economies, forced governments to adopt lockdown measures, and changed the human lifestyle. Now, US-based researchers have found out that a more contagious coronavirus strain is dominating, as per a Reuters report.
The first study to analyze the structure of the novel coronavirus from two waves of infection in the American city of Houston found that a more contagious strain dominates recent samples, researchers from Houston Methodist Hospital have said. Researchers have closely monitored and examined over 5,000 genomes from viruses recovered in the earliest phase of the pandemic in Houston and from an ongoing more recent wave of infections.
The study found that nearly all strains in the second wave had a mutation known as D614G. This mutation has been shown to increase the number of ‘spikes’ on the crown-shaped virus. The spikes are an element that allows the virus to bind to and infect cells thus increasing the ability of the mutated virus to infect cells.
The Houston researchers said patients infected with the variant strain had significantly higher amounts of the virus on initial diagnosis. They found little evidence that mutations in the virus have made it deadlier, noting that the severity of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, was more strongly linked to patients’ underlying medical conditions and genetics, as per the Reuters report.
They also said some regions of the spike protein – the primary target of coronavirus vaccines now in development – showed several mutations, possibly indicating that the virus is changing in order to evade the body’s immune response. However, the study has not yet been reviewed by outside experts, the Reuters report stated.
Previous studies have shown that the coronavirus is mutating and evolving as it adapts to its human hosts.