Finding means governments and individuals have to be more cautious especially about reopening as cases can grow faster than originally.
Professor Nick Loman, of the University of Birmingham, and a member of the COVID-19 Genomics Consortium, told BBC Radio 4’s “Today” that from their observation of trends, the new strain formed clusters of patients more quickly in the UK than the original virus from Wuhan, China.
“It (the mutation) exists in the spike protein, which is a very important way that the coronavirus can enter human cells, and we have been noticing in the UK and worldwide that this mutation has been increasing in frequency,” Loman is quoted by the New York Post as saying.
“This mutation was predicted first by computer modeling to have some impact on the structure of that protein and the ability of the virus to bind and enter cells and then quite recently was shown in laboratory experiments to increase the infectivity of cells.”
And according to Loman, the new version of the virus is now the most dominant strain. More importantly perhaps is that it is spreading faster than the original one, and is causing outbreaks to emerge faster than previously seen.
Scientists came to the conclusion after analyzing more than 40,000 genomes in the UK, according to LLoman.
Another study published in the journal cell has made a similar finding.
Fortunately perhaps, the new mutation, is not believed to cause a greater risk of death or lengthier hospital stays.
The Telegraph newspaper of UK also quotes Loman as saying that the mutation is the most dominant form of the virus, accounting for 75 percent of cases in the UK but also to that it is a worldwide phenomenon.
“This increase in this mutation is a worldwide phenomenon,” he said. “The original virus out of Wuhan had the D-type, but the G-type has become much more dominant across the world, including the UK.”
However, the strain is not expected to impact the process of finding a vaccine for COVID-19, he added.
Telegraph quotes Loman as saying that the new strain is not believed to patients any differently.
“It’s a small impact, we think, and we’re not completely confident about that, but we found by testing what happened in the UK that the viruses that contained the G-type of mutation seemed to form clusters of cases faster, which ended up being bigger than viruses with the D-mutation,” the professor said.
“We didn’t see any significant association with survival and the length of hospital stays with this mutation — we don’t think this mutation is important in changing virulence. The effect seems to be on transmissibility.”
“Currently, we do not have sufficient evidence to come to any conclusions about the virus becoming more malicious or benign,” Zapata told CNET. “We simply know that certain variants have become more prominent, such as the D614G strain. However, currently, our evidence about D614G shows that it is not causing different clinical outcomes in humans.”