The first study to analyze the composition of the novel coronavirus from two waves of infection in a big city revealed that a highly contagious strain dominates new samples, as researchers from Houston Methodist Hospital announced on Wednesday.
They analyzed over 5,000 genomes from viruses that were recovered during the earliest point of the pandemic in Houston, a very ethnically diverse city that hosts 7 million inhabitants.
The study revealed that most of the second wave strains presented a mutation called D614G, which seemingly increased the number of “spikes” on the crown-shaped virus.
The spikes grant the virus the ability to bind to and infect cells, thus boosting its efficiency.
The Houston scientists claimed that patients infected with the new strain presented higher amounts of the deadly virus on their first diagnosis.
However, they also observed proof that the virus’s mutations made it a lot deadlier, adding to the severity of COVID-19, the disease provoked by the virus. It was also likely connected to the patients’ underlying conditions and genetics.
The scientists also noted that some spike protein regions – the main target of coronavirus vaccines currently in development- denoted some mutations, suggesting that the virus is evolving to counter the body’s immune response.
Unfortunately, there is nothing very efficient we can do about that at the moment. The virus will keep on evolving and becoming deadlier. However, in many cases, mutations aren’t necessarily beneficial for the virus.
In some cases, a virus can suffer mutations that make it efficient at infecting other hosts like animals, making it weak against the human immune system.