This undated transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, also known as a novel coronavirus, the virus that causes COVID-19 and was isolated from a patient in the United States. Virus particles appear on the surface of cells cultured in the laboratory. The spines on the outer edge of the virus particles give corona viruses their name, crown-like. NIAID-RML / handout via REUTERS. THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT
(Reuters) – A specific mutation in the new coronavirus can significantly improve the ability to infect cells, according to a study by US researchers.
Research could explain why early outbreaks in some parts of the world, according to Scripps Research experts, did not lead to overwhelming health care systems like other outbreaks in New York and Italy.
The mutation called D614G increased the number of "spikes" on the coronavirus – the part that gives it its characteristic shape. These tips allow the virus to bind to and infect cells.
"The number – or density – of the virus' functional tips is four or five times higher due to this mutation," said Hyeryun Choe, one of the study’s leading authors.
According to the researchers, it is not yet known whether this small mutation affects the severity of the symptoms of infected people or increases mortality.
Researchers doing laboratory experiments say that more research, including controlled trials, which are widely regarded as the gold standard for clinical trials, needs to be done to confirm their test tube test results.
Older studies have shown that the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus mutates and evolves as it adapts to its human hosts. The D614G mutation in particular was classified as an urgent problem because it appeared to be the dominant mutation.
The Scripps Research study is currently being peer reviewed and published on Friday with reports of its results.
Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru: Editing by Bernard Orr
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