The D614G mutation is the main cause that the coronavirus is increasingly infectious. This is what new research by experts from New York University, the New York Genome Center and Mount Sinai Hospital tells us. The new virus would be up to eight times more infectious than the first one that was detected in Wuhan (China).
This mutation It is found in the peak protein that is in SARS-CoV-2, but specifically in the variants recently detected around the world, those of the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil. In fact, that was one of the things that was clear from the beginning, that the variants were more contagious, but exactly how much was not assured.
Neville Sanjana, an assistant professor of biology in New York and one of the researchers on the study, believes the finding is important in finding a reason for the increase in infections: “Confirming that the mutation leads to increased transmissibility may help explain, in part, why the virus has spread so rapidly over the past year.”
How has this data been arrived at?
In order to determine the true incidence of mutations with respect to the first coronavirus detected in 2020, what has been done is injecting the virus with the mentioned mutation into human lung, liver and colon cells. And once the mutation took effect, it has been compared with the same cells but from the original Wuhan strain.
With both groups of cells, the comparison has resulted in an increase in transmissibility from one to another of up to eight times. In those cells with the D614G mutation, the human immune system had much more difficulty dividing the virus, due to the resistant effect generated by the mutated spike protein.
“Our experimental data was quite unequivocal: the D614G variant infects human cells much more efficiently than the wild type”explains Zharko Daniloski, a postdoctoral fellow in Sanjana’s lab at New York University and co-first author of the study.
The unknowns: if mortality increases and if it resists vaccines
ANDThis study really confirms something that was already known, that coronavirus strains are much more contagious, and gives the exact amount by which the transmissibility is multiplied. Nevertheless, there are questions that remain in the air without finding a definitive answer.
For example, Do these mutations have a higher lethality? For now, the mutation has not yet been directly linked to more serious forms of the coronavirus or with an increase in hospitalization. Therefore, neither with the case fatality and mortality being higher.
On the other hand, Can vaccines also stop these strains? Vaccines were originally developed when there were no new mutations, that is, on the structure of the original spike protein, which was found in Wuhan. There are vaccines that are resistant to some variants, others to none. The need for a booster for them or to carry out annual vaccination programs is already being considered.
For now, hehe European Union plans to launch a plan to deal with the new variants, called the HERA Incubator, with the aim of detecting new strains and approving vaccines that can be modified. Y in the United Kingdom they are already working on a new formula to develop the universal vaccine that can against all strains.