A study from Scripps Research Institute indicates the strain of coronavirus circulating the United States appears to show mutations making the virus more stable and abundant than the original strain from Wuhan, China.
LSU Health New Orleans molecular geneticist Dr. Lucio Miele says viruses that contain a mutated protein are approximately ten times more infectious.
“This particular form of the virus has been taking over from the original one and it really is not surprising, it’s evolution.
With every new infection comes a slight imperfection between the source virus and the new virus protein. Miele says with the more viruses that are out there, the better there is a chance is that one of them is going to hit on a mutation that makes it more infectious. Mutation and natural selection is how all life forms evolve,” said Miele.
“If we create a larger and larger and larger resevoir of this virus in the human population, we are increasing the probability that the virus will mutate to a form that helps it survive,” said Miele.
He adds letting the virus spread for herd immunity to develop is more dangerous than originally thought. Miele believes figuring out how the virus is changing is vital information in the development of vaccines, treatments, and containment.
Miele says one of the drugs being used for treatment right now, remdesivir, works by cause more mistakes in the repetition of the virus.
“If there are enough mistakes, the virus dies, but that also increases the probability of mutation that might be favorable for the virus, so it is a double-edged sword,” said Miele.