Chennai: A latest study has said the novel coronavirus is accumulating genetic mutations, one of which may have made it more contagious.
The study involving more than 5,000 Covid-19 patients in the US has been published in the journal mBIO. However it did not find that these mutations have made the virus deadlier or changed clinical outcomes.
According to the researchers, the mutation, called D614G, is located in the spike protein that pries open our cells for viral entry.
Ilya Finkelstein, associate professor at The University of Texas at Austin, US, said, “the virus is mutating due to a combination of neutral drift — which just means random genetic changes that don’t help or hurt the virus — and pressure from our immune systems.”
Scientists said that during the initial wave of the pandemic, 71 per cent of the novel coronaviruses identified in patients in Houston had this mutation. When the second wave of the outbreak hit Houston during the summer, this variant had leaped to 99.9 per cent prevalence, they said.
This mirrors a trend observed around the world, scientists said. The reason why strains containing this mutation outcompete those that didn’t have it may be that natural selection would favour strains of the virus that transmit more easily, the researchers said.