Scientists are trying to understand aÂ mutation of the novel coronavirusÂ seen around the globe that some believe could make the virus more contagious, according to a report.
The mutation, officially designated D614G or âGâ for short, has been found toÂ affectÂ theÂ virusâÂ spike protein, which is a structure that allows it to enter human cells. The more effective the spike protein, the easier it can enter a hostâs body.
Research has suggested that the mutation, which changes amino acid 614 from âDâ (aspartic acid)Â to âGâ (glycine)Â might make the spike protein more effective, which enhances the virusâÂ infectiousness, according to The Washington Post.
Researchers have found that out of the roughly 50,000 genomes of the new virus uploaded to a shared database, about 70 percent carried the mutation.
âThe epidemiological study and our data together really explain why the [G variantâs] spread in Europe and the U.S. was really fast,â Hyeryun Choe, a virologist at Scripps Research, told the paper. âThis is not just accidental.â
Choe was theÂ lead author of an unpublished study on the G variantâs enhanced infectiousness in laboratory cell cultures. He said there were a couple of reasons why âGâ was more effective in spreading the virus.
In the mutation, the outer parts of those proteins that bind to a human receptorÂ were less likely to break off, which was a fault ofÂ SARS-CoV-2, the virus originated in China that causes COVID-19.
The faulty mechanism made it so the SARS-CoV-2Â had a harder time invading host cells. He added that âGâ has more spike proteins, and said those reasons made the mutation 10 times more infectious in lab experiments, according to the Post.
âI think this mutation happened to compensate,â Choe said.
The mutation was also found to be more contagious in four studies that have yet to be peer-reviewed. OneÂ study by scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory concluded that patients with the âGâ mutation also have more virus in their bodies, making them more likely to spread it to others, the report said.
Others believe more studies are needed to determineÂ how effective the mutation is in spreading the virus.
âThe bottom line is, we havenât seen anything definitive yet,â said Jeremy Luban, a virologist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
Choe added the mutation didnât impact the lethality of the virus for those infected, only how contagious it became, according to the paper.
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