SCIENCE, UNSETTLED: Is The Dominant, Mutated Coronavirus Strain More Infectious? Experts Can’t Agree.

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No pathogen on Earth is being more closely monitored than the coronavirus.

Scientists have been regularly collecting and genetically sequencing samples of the virus to track how it’s changing. Over time, that monitoring has revealed, one version became more prevalent than the rest: a strain with the mutation dubbed D614G.

According to a new, preliminary study from researchers at Houston Methodist Hospital, that mutated strain was responsible for nearly every COVID-19 infection there this summer, during in Texas’ second peak of infections.

James Musser, the senior author of the new research, thinks that means the mutated strain which contains the amino acid glycine, or G is more transmissible than the original.

“There’s a preponderance of evidence that there’s biologically something different in G variant organisms, Musser told Business Insider. “It more readily infects.”

His research is the latest in a string of studies suggesting coronaviruses with the D614G mutation are more contagious than their genetic predecessors.

But many other scientists question that conclusion.

“The study provides more evidence for what we already know about this mutation: That it’s the most common variant,” Emma Hodcroft, a geneticist at the Nextstrain project, told Business Insider.

“That doesn’t mean the virus is effectively mutating.”

Hodcroft’s team has tracked the coronavirus’ genetic changes since the start of the pandemic, and she said they have yet to identify a mutation that would meaningfully change how infectious or lethal the virus is.


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