Egon Ozer, an infectious disease specialist from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, recently told the Washington Post that he noticed a mutation in coronavirus samples that he studied in Chicago. Although initially they were genetically identical to those that entered the United States from China, in May he discovered that 95 percent of the genomes he had sequenced produced a “G” (short for glycine) in the number 614 of the virus’s amino acids rather than a “D” (abbreviation of aspartic acid) for one of their amino acids, number 614.
Since the alteration occurred in the part of the genome responsible for the “spike protein” that gives the coronavirus its crown-like appearance, the mutation is significant. In fact, peak proteins are responsible for the virus̵
As The Post noted, “Of the approximately 50,000 genomes of the new virus that researchers worldwide have uploaded to a shared database, about 70 percent carry the mutation, officially designated D614G but known more familiar to scientists as” G . “”
Ozen was not the only one to observe it. A study conducted by Scripps Research earlier this month had the same observation, with virologist Hyeryun Choe, PhD who wrote that “viruses with this mutation were much more infectious than those without the mutation in the cell culture system that We have used”. The study is still under peer review, so its authors stressed that the conclusions should be considered preliminary. They noted, however, that the impact of the mutation on virus spikes “allows newly-created viral particles to navigate the journey from the manufacturer’s cell to the fully intact target cell, with less tendency to fall prematurely.”
Salon contacted the experts for their thoughts on what the mutation could mean.
“This is of course a normal process of virus evolution,” dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “It can have an impact on the organism’s infectivity. There is still not much evidence that has affected gravity. It can increase its ability to enter cells. (So more contagious but not necessarily more lethal). More infections can mean more people at risk, so you could theoretically see more diseases in people and if you had higher risk people, then more serious diseases. “
He added: “No evidence to date that affects the ability to create an immune response from the peak protein. That said, only time will tell.”
Benjamin noted that there is no evidence that the mutation will impact efforts to develop a vaccine, but added that “we must always be careful of the large genetic change that could mean that we need a new or more effective vaccine. Year a because of relatively small changes in the flu virus. Sufficient change on the SARS-2 virus can mean we have to do a new test every year. Of course, let’s assume we have a safe and effective vaccine to start with. “
Another expert echoed Benjamin’s views on the potential implications of the mutation.
“What we know today is that the SARS-CoV2 virus strain containing the D614G mutation is occurring with increasing frequency in patients with COVID-19,” Dr. Russell Medford, President of the Center for Global Health Innovation and Global Health Crisis Coordination Center he said to Salon via email. “We also know that under highly controlled experimental conditions in the laboratory using harmless engineered viruses, that the D614G mutation confers functional properties on an important viral protein, S, which stabilizes both the protein and improves the ability of the engineered virus to infect human cells in the Tissue culture This suggests that increased infectivity may contribute to the increased frequency of D614G SARS-CoV2 that we are observing in patients with COVID-19. However, and above all, more research is needed since we do not know if this mutation affects severity symptoms in infected people or increased mortality
He added, “However, and most importantly, more research is needed as we don’t know if this mutation affects the severity of symptoms in infected people or increases mortality.”
Last month, a study by Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists raised the alarm that a mutated coronavirus strain may end up being so contagious that it worsens the ongoing pandemic.
“The Spike D614G mutation is an urgent concern; it began to spread in Europe in early February and when introduced into new regions it quickly becomes the dominant form. In addition, we present evidence of recombination between locally circulating strains, indicative of strain infections. multiples, “wrote Los Alamos researchers. “These results [sic] have important implications for SARS-CoV-2 transmission, pathogenesis and immune interventions. “
They added: “D614G is increasing in frequency at an alarming rate, indicating a fitness advantage over the original Wuhan strain which allows for faster spread.”