Researchers at Houston Methodist Hospital said Wednesday that the first study analyzed the structure of the new coronavirus from two waves of infection in a major city and found that the more infectious strain dominated the most recent samples.
They examined the virus recovered from Houston (a multi-ethnic city of 7 million ethnicities) at the beginning of the pandemic and more than 5,000 genomes obtained from the recent wave of continuous infections.
This study has not yet been reviewed by external experts and found that almost all strains in the second wave have a mutation called D61
Spikes enable viruses to bind and infect cells, thereby enhancing the ability of mutant viruses to infect cells.
Researchers in Houston said that patients infected with the mutant strain had significantly higher levels of the virus at first diagnosis.
But they found no evidence that mutations in the virus made it more deadly, and pointed out that the severity of the disease COVID-19 caused by the virus is closely related to the patient’s basic medical condition and genetics.
They also said that certain regions of the spike protein (the main target of the coronavirus vaccine currently under development) show several mutations, which may indicate that the virus is changing to evade the body’s immune response.
Previous studies have shown that coronaviruses will mutate and evolve after adapting to human hosts.
Reporting by Deena Beasley; Editing by Tom Brown