More Contagious Coronavirus Strain

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Day 184: Stay Safe Minnesota

A recent study suggests that a more contagious strain of the Coronavirus may have mutated and is spreading dominantly.

In the Washington Post, reporters Chris Mooney, Joel Achenbach and Joe Fox write citing the largest U.S. genetic study of virus conducted in Houston that the coronavirus is mutating and one viral strain outdistancing all of its competitors, and may be contributing to its current rapid spread in the US.

Scientists in Houston on Wednesday (April 23) released a study of more than 5,000 genetic sequences of the coronavirus that reveals the virus’s continual accumulation of mutations, one of which may have made it more contagious.

The Washington Post

“David Morens, a virologist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), reviewed the new study and said the findings point to the strong possibility that the virus, as it has moved through the population, has become more transmissible, and that this may have implications for our ability to control it” write the Post.

This is a single study, and ‘you don’t want to over-interpret what this means’. But the virus could potentially be responding — through random mutations — to such interventions as mask-wearing and social distancing. Wearing masks, washing our hands, all those things are barriers to transmissibility, or contagion, but as the virus becomes more contagious it statistically is better at getting around those barriers.

David Morens, NIAID Virologist (source: Washington Post)

It’s also reported that ‘a similar study from earlier this month found evidence that the United Kingdom was also overtaken by the same virus strain over the spring’.

The Huston study reportedly found that ‘nearly all strains in the second wave had a mutation, known as D614G, which has been shown to increase the number of “spikes” on the crown-shaped virus and thus allowinf the virus to bind to and infect cells, increasing the ability of the mutated virus to infect cells’.

Its practical implication is that since the primary target of current COVID-19 vaccines is in some regions of the spike protein, the changing mutations may allow the virus to evade the body’s immune response.

We’ll have to chase the virus and, as it mutates, we’ll have to tinker with our vaccine.

David Morens (source: Washington Post)
Coronavirus Pandemic Watch

According to the MDH latest tally (as of Sept 26, 11 a.m.) the confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota are 95,659 (out of 1,954,715 tested) with 2,004 deaths. According to Johns Hopkins database (as of Sept 25, 3:23 p.m.) there are 7,019,232 confirmed covid19 infection with 203,429 deaths. Globally the covid19 virus has infected 32,386,999 with 985,226 deaths.