Worrisome Covid Mutation Is More Contagious

Mish

The dominant Covid-19 strain appears to be a more virulent mutation.

Science Alert reports Dominant Coronavirus Strain Appears to Be a Mutated, More Virulent Version

The genetic variation of the novel coronavirus that dominates the world today infects human cells more readily than the original that emerged in China, according to a new study published in the journal Cell on Thursday.

​"I think the data is showing that there is a single mutation that actually makes the virus be able to replicate better, and maybe have high viral loads," Anthony Fauci, the United States's top infectious disease specialist, who wasn't involved in the research, commented to Journal of the American Medical Association. [See Video Below]

​Researchers from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and Duke University in North Carolina partnered with the University of Sheffield's COVID-19 Genomics UK research group to analyze genome samples published on GISAID, an international resource for sharing genome sequences. 

​They found that the current variant, called "D614G", makes a small but potent change in the "spike" protein that protrudes from the surface of the virus, which it uses to invade and infect human cells.

Coronavirus Update With Anthony Fauci

Spike Protein Mutation

Worrisome Mutation Thread

  1. Worrisome Microbe mutation: “At least four lab experiments suggest that the mutation makes the virus more infectious. Another study from Los Alamos National Lab finds that patients with the G variant actually have more virus in their bodies, i.e. more likely to spread it to others. 
  2. A change in the virus was appearing again and again. This mutation, associated with outbreaks in Europe and New York, eventually took over the city. By May, it was found in 95 percent of all the genomes Ozer sequenced.
  3. “At a glance, mutation seemed trivial. About 1,300 amino acids serve as building blocks for spike protein. In mutant virus, the genetic instructions for just one of those amino acids — # 614 — switched in new variant from a#”D” (aspartic acid) to “G” (glycine).”
  4. “But the location was significant, because the switch occurred in the part of the genome that codes for the all-important “spike protein” — the protruding structure that gives coronavirus its crownlike profile and allows it to enter human cells the way a burglar picks a lock.”
  5. “And its ubiquity is undeniable. 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 familiarly to scientists as “G.”
  6. “The mutation doesn’t appear to make people sicker, but a number of scientists worry that it has made it more contagious. “epidemiological study & our data together really explain why [G variant’s] spread in Europe and U.S. was really fast... This is not just accidental.”
  7. “But there may be other explanations for the G variant’s dominance: biases in where genetic data are being collected, quirks of timing that gave the mutated virus an early foothold in susceptible populations.”
  8.  “The bottom line is, we haven’t seen anything definitive yet,” said Jeremy Luban, a virologist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. The scramble to unravel this mutation mystery embodies the challenges of science during the coronavirus pandemic.“
  9. “The distinctive infectiousness of the G strain is so strong that scientists have been drawn to the mutation even when they weren’t looking for it. Neville Sanjana, a geneticist at NYU, was trying to figure out which genes enable SARS-CoV-2 to infiltrate human cells...”
  10. “But in experiments based on a gene sequence taken from an early case of the virus in Wuhan, he struggled to get that form of the virus to infect cells. Then the team switched to a model virus based on the G variant. “We were shocked,” Sanjana said. “Voilà!”
  11. “It was just this huge increase in viral transduction.” They repeated the experiment in many types of cells, and every time the variant was many times more infectious.”
  12. “The spike protein for SARS-CoV-2 has two parts that don’t always hold together well. In version that arose in China, the outer part — which virus needs for human receptor — frequently broke off. Equipped with this faulty lock pick, it had a harder time invading host cells.”
  13.  “Studying both versions of the gene using a proxy virus in a Petri dish, Choe and her colleagues found that viruses with G variant had more spike proteins, and outer parts of those proteins were less likely to break off. This made virus ~10 times more infectious in the lab.”
  14.  “But New York team offers different explanation for why variant is so infectious. Whereas Choe’s study proposes that mutation made the spike protein more stable, Sanjana suggest that G variant is more efficient the process of invading & taking over its reproductive machinery”
  15. “Luban, who has also been experimenting with the D614G mutation, has been drawn to a third possibility: His experiments suggest that the mutation allows the spike protein to change shape as it attaches to the ACE2 receptor, improving its ability to fuse to the host cell.”
  16. “Although these experiments are compelling, they’re not conclusive, said Kristian Andersen, a Scripps virologist not involved in any of the studies. The scientists need to figure out why they’ve identified different mechanisms for the same effect.”
  17.  “Even then, Andersen said, it will be too soon to say that the G variant transmits faster among people. Cell culture experiments have been wrong before. Early experiments with hydroxychloroquine hinted that it was effective at fighting the coronavirus in a petri dish.”
  18. “The drug was touted a lot and FDA authorized it for emergency use in hospitalized covid-19 patients. But that authorization was withdrawn this month after evidence showed that the drug was “unlikely to be effective” against the virus and posed potential safety risks.”
  19. “So far, the biggest study of transmission has come from Bette Korber, who built one of the world’s biggest viral genome databases for tracking HIV. In late April, she and colleagues released a draft of their work arguing that the mutation boosts transmission of the virus.”
  20.  “Analyzing sequences from more than two dozen regions across the world, they found that most places where the original virus was dominant before March were eventually taken over by the mutated version...”
  21. “This switch was especially apparent in the United States: 96% of early sequences here belonged to the D variant, but by the end of March, almost 70% of sequences carried the G amino acid instead.”
  22.  I want to add that these 4 studies are all lab studies that are computational models or in vitro studies. Not in vivo in humans or primates. So let’s wait for further in vivo studies before making formal conclusion on infectiousness.

D614G Study

Here is a link to the D614G Study, published July 2. 

One interesting comment to the article.

Further mutations are quite likely to come; they could affect both, the easier spread, and the severity of the disease even in younger patients. Currently, many mammalian species can also transmit the disease within their species (cats, tigers, lions, ferrets, dogs). Despite some findings in Wuhan with 15% of tested cats (from about 100) showed antibodies against Sars-CoV-2 (but none of the reference blood samples from before the outbreak was positive), little is tested anywhere else - leading to the potentially false suggestion of the WHO that there is no evidence for a major transmission from pet-to-human. I wonder how this currently dominating mutation affects the infection rate in cats, and if this may support an easier transmission from cat to human?

What We Know

  1. Social distancing helps
  2. The recent jump in cases is from a jump in infection rates, not due to number of tests alone
  3. Covid-19 mutates in a fashion that newer mutations can quickly become the dominant form in an area
  4. The number of cases is at record highs in many Southern states
  5. Governors in many states, especially in the south, have walked back or even reversed reopening plans.

Unfortunately, there is too much we do not know. 

I wonder if the mutations will quickly negate all the efforts in producing a vaccine.

Mish

Comments (64)
Carl_R
Carl_R

This is pretty much old news. Since March, most of the Covid in the US has been D614G. It does explain why the West coast got the virus under control quickly, while the East Coast failed. Since the West Coast is no doubt now facing the more virulent strain, that is why this is relevant now.

It would be interesting to see the percentage of D614G by state so we could see how that matches up with the various states' abilities to contain it.

Realist
Realist

Hi Mish. Happy 4th of July.

CV19 is an RNA virus. They tend to mutate frequently but not dramatically. Most mutations are insignificant and not for the betterment of the virus and these quickly die out.

Despite high rates of mutation, it is rare to see a mutation change the “mode” of transmission over short periods of time in humans. Though the mutation may change the virus to make it more severe or more easily transmitted, it rarely changes the mode of transmission.

As a result, vaccines which target the mode of transmission are usually very effective. Virus mutations rarely change the virus so much as to make the vaccine ineffective.

Once the vaccine is out, there is always the small possibility that the virus will mutate to resist the vaccine. However, this has not happened with other RNA vaccines for measles, mumps and yellow fever.

That is why I am confident that there will be several vaccines available in 2021 that will provide some degree of effectiveness. Taken together, they will likely provide significant protection for most people. The length of protection will be key. I suspect early vaccines will be needed to be taken annually, but hopefully a vaccine will eventually emerge that will provide multiple years of protection.

Till then, it is so important to wear a mask, social distance, avoid large crowds, clean and sanitize, and test and trace. That is how other countries have tamed the virus, allowing them to open up their economies, while they wait for a vaccine.

Casual_Observer
Casual_Observer

This story hasnt gotten enough coverage. The more virulent mutation is only now hitting places it hasnt. That's bad news for any country that didnt get it the first time. This includes countries in Northern Europe, Iceland, Canada, the United States, Mexico and elsewhere in the Americas. Some countries like England may be opening up again at exactly the wrong time. There was a shutdown of a city of 200,000 in Spain today. I expect that as travel increases within Europe they will suffer more outbreaks of the new strain. Portions of Spain, France and Italy were ravaged but most of Europe was spared from the more virulent strain.

Casual_Observer
Casual_Observer

FWIW coronaviruses are always mutating. The common cold is typically a coronavirus, rhinovirus or both. I've said from the beginning that while vaccines would be helpful they were unlikely to prevent the mutations. Well we now know that the strain that ran through Wuhan, Italy and New York hasnt made it to most other places yet but is only now getting started. Those celebrating that a region or country has done a great job were probably celebrating too early. In reality the worse strain is only now spreading everywhere. This is precisely the wrong time to be opening or open.

numike
numike

The coronavirus is finding new victims worldwide, in bars and restaurants, offices, markets and casinos, giving rise to frightening clusters of infection that increasingly confirm what many scientists have been saying for months: The virus lingers in the air indoors, infecting those nearby. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/04/health/239-experts-with-1-big-claim-the-coronavirus-is-airborne.html?smid=tw-share

CA2020
CA2020

Mish, I am shocked that you haven't triggered the Anti Fauci, Anti Virus, Anti Vaccine crowd. They must be out at the open bars testing the advanced theories of Covidiotism!

GeorgeWP
GeorgeWP

As more people are infected presumably the rate of mutation will increase, so more variants to come. But ones which produce worse symptoms presumably also limit themselves by making the diseased less able to spread it. So question is will getting a highly infectious, but not very deadly strain provide immunity or at least enhanced defences against other strains.

GeorgeWP
GeorgeWP

It would seem obvious a virus can spread in the air. Nice sunshine, a breeze, perhaps it isn’t viable very long. In a warm, humid, basically still office it might float 20m and last 30 mins. Probably much less likely to get a big virus load than way but...

ToInfinityandBeyond
ToInfinityandBeyond

There is no doubt that the case count is climbing to new daily highs. It will be interesting to see if and how the daily death count increases relative to the daily case count. I have heard arguments that the mutated virus now seems to hit more of the younger population and that this will result in a decrease to the number of daily deaths. I guess we wait and see what the next couple of weeks brings although the cynic in me expects some of the impacted states to be less than forthcoming with actual fatality rates. It is hard to see how the economy can start to build some momentum as long as the daily case count keeps rising. No concerts, no spectator sports, no theaters, significantly reduced restaurant and bar traffic, significantly reduced foreign and domestic tourism coupled with a high unemployment rate all suggest that this recovery will be slow and a long time coming. Hope the Fed has deep pockets.

Wake up sheeple
Wake up sheeple

Can’t believe everyone believes all this propaganda and nonsense. I know nobody with this virus and ask everyone I see each day if they do. Nobody knows anyone with it.
Surprised everyone allows media and propaganda to control them like this. It’s sad.
Everything you need to know about the Global Elite can be told in the great 2020 Covid-19 hoax:

2020 Covid-19 deaths so far this year in the RICHEST nations of the world: 525k people, 85% of which have been elderly.

Meticulously tracked and hysterically reported as a mass extinction event.

2020 deaths from starvation so far this year in the POOREST nations of the world: 4.5 MILLION people, 1/3 of which have been CHILDREN dying at a rate of 1 child every 10 seconds.

Dodge Demon
Dodge Demon

West coast vs East coast, particularly the Boston to D.C. corridor -

West coast younger
West coast lower BMI
West coast lower diabetes
West coast lower heart disease
West coast outdoors more
West coast eat healthier
West coast exercise more
West cost not as densely populated in cities or individual residential buildings

None of the above has anything to do with ‘response’.

Full disclosure - I am in Flyoverland, nowhere near either coast. 90 degrees, 100% sunshine and humid today, a great day to run on the trails uninterrupted.

Montana33
Montana33

This is depressing. I didn’t know anyone with it and now I know several people including my neighbor. Our hospitals are filling up. Once hospitals are blown out, everyone freak out. Death is not the only horrible outcome. Sadly- if we had spent trillions on fighting this with testing and tracing and quarantining people then the financial losses would have been a fraction of what they are now. This is the worst, self inflicted financial disaster. Trump is the biggest destroyer of our economy there has ever been. That’s why all he talks about is hate a white supremacy now. He has nothing else to offer. We Have 100 percent broken with my husbands family and Part of mine. Culture war is real and those grandparents will never see their grandchildren again.

Webej
Webej

Cell culture experiments have been wrong before. Early experiments with hydroxychloroquine hinted that it was effective at fighting the coronavirus in a petri dish.” “The drug was touted a lot and FDA authorized it for emergency use in hospitalized covid-19 patients. But that authorization was withdrawn this month after evidence showed that the drug was “unlikely to be effective” against the virus and posed potential safety risks.”

This has become the respectable position, except the studies they are referring to are deeply flawed, none mentioning that hydoxychloroquine is a zinc ionophore. Studies that do not dose properly (early disease stage, with zinc) and do not track time of onset and zinc serum levels are worthless. Studies that apply it to people on ventilators are designed to fail, like applying an air bag to a car crash victim in the hospital.

There is a lot of evidence that it does work, among them fatality rates in countries such as Morocco and Costa Rica (and Korea) where they have used it. There are also many studies that strongly support it efficacy. Any other ionophore will actually work as well.

Unfortunately, the science cudgel that people like to wield has become thoroughly politicized, on many fronts. It's a shame that people are dying because of bureaucratic and commerical interests.

kiers
kiers

I don't know where this headline is coming from, but there's error of terminology in the article referenced: the headline says "contagiousness" is worse, the byline says "virulence" is worse. These two things are generally INVERSES of each other. WHen a virus becomes more contagious, virulence goes down.


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