A new mutation of the coronavirus may be making it more contagious. Scientists around the world are working to understand the mutation, officially called D614G or “G” for short.
Researchers are finding that the mutation affects the virus’ spike protein. The spike protein is a structure that enables the virus to enter human cells. The more effective the spike protein, the simpler it is for the virus to enter the body, according to Fox News.
The mutation changes amino acid 614 from “D” (aspartic acid) to “G” (glycine). Researchers suggest this may make the spike protein more effective. Therefore, the virus’ infectiousness goes up.
Since the coronavirus outbreak, researchers have been uploading genomes into a shared database. Of the roughly 50,000 genomes uploaded, researchers discovered about 70 percent carry the mutation.
Why is the “G” Mutation So Effective?
Hyeryun Choe, a virologist at Scripps Research, spoke about the mutation with The Washington Post. “The epidemiological study and our data together really explain why the [G variant’s] spread in Europe and the U.S. was really fast,” Choe said. “This is not just accidental.”
As the lead author of an unpublished study on the G variant’s enhanced infectiousness, Choe claims the “G” variant more effectively spreads the virus for two reasons. Firstly, with the “G” mutation, the proteins that bind to human receptors are stronger than that of SARS-CoV-2.
Secondly, Choe believes “G” has more spike proteins. With stronger proteins and more proteins than SARS-CoV-2, Choe believes the mutation is 10 times more infectious in lab experiments. “I think this mutation happened to compensate,” Choe said.
While Choe seems convinced of the reasons behind the mutation’s infectiousness, others remain skeptical. Jeremy Luban, a virologist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, believes more studies are needed to determine the effectiveness of the mutation in spreading the virus. “The bottom line is, we haven’t seen anything definitive yet,” Luban said.
[H/T Fox News]