In April, researchers from the United States reported that a variant of the coronavirus infected more cells than the original form of the pathogen that occurred in China. After initial criticism, the scientists are now backing up their results with further investigations.
According to a study, a currently predominant variant of the coronavirus affects human cells more easily than the original virus from China. The study published on Thursday in the journal “Cell” indicates that the mutated virus could be more contagious than the original form that appeared in China. However, it is unclear whether this will make people more dangerous.
For the study, researchers from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and Duke University in North Carolina teamed up with a research group from the British University of Sheffield and analyzed genome sequences from Sars-CoV-2. As early as April, they found that the virus variant D614G infects more cells due to a single but decisive change in a protein – under laboratory conditions.
After criticism of the first study and at the request of “Cell”, the researchers added additional tests: Among other things, they analyzed the data of 999 British patients who had to be hospitalized for Covid-19. They found that patients with the D614G variant carried more virus particles – but this did not change the severity of the disease.
The thesis has not yet been confirmed
In laboratory tests, the ability of the virus variant to infect human cells was three to six times higher. It looks like it is a more powerful virus, “said Erica Ollmann Sapphires from La Jolla Institute for Immunology, who did one of the experiments.
“I think the data shows that the mutation replicates the virus better and may have a high viral load,” said US President Advisor Anthony Fauci of the study to the Journal of the American Medical Association. At the same time, however, he pointed out that confirmation of the thesis is still missing. It is also uncertain whether the variant triggers serious illnesses or not.
In a commentary on the study, virologist Nathan Grubaugh of the Yale School of Public Health wrote that the fact is, “the new variant is now the pandemic”. However, little will change for people: Even if this could influence the development of a drug or a vaccine, “we do not expect D614G to change our control measures or to make individual infections worse.”