Scientists in Houston inspected over 5,000 genetic sequences of the novel coronavirus.
The results suggest that one of the virus’s multiple mutations might make it more contagious than the rest.
The study wasn’t peer-reviewed yet. Researchers of the Houston Methodist Hospital carried it out.
They discovered the D614G mutation strain, responsible for most infections in Houston this summer, during Texas’s second infection wave.
Thankfully, the mutation didn’t make the virus deadlier or alter its clinical outcomes, researchers suggest.
It is natural for viruses to mutate and most random sequences of their genetic sequences are harmless.
However, scientists noticed that those infected with the mutated strain presented higher viral loads in their upper respiratory tracts, improving the virus’s capacity to infect others.
David Morens, a virologist from NIAID ( National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases), analyzed the study and stated that the discoveries suggest that the virus is becoming increasingly contagious and might likely be adapting to safety measures like mask-wearing and social distancing.
“Wearing masks, washing our hands, all those things are barriers to transmissibility or contagion, but as the virus becomes more contagious, it statistically is better at getting around those barriers,” Morens stated, warning not to over-interpret the discoveries from a single study that hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed.
Also, he added that the virus might eventually get around immunity when a vaccine is developed, just like the flu.
“Although we don’t know yet, it is well within the realm of possibility that the coronavirus, when our population-level immunity gets high enough, this coronavirus will find a way to get around our immunity,” he stated.
“We’ll have to chase the virus, and, as it mutates, we’ll have to tinker with our vaccine,” he added.