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Mutated Virus Now Dominates: Research

Vaccine development could be affected by change
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 3, 2020 1:32 PM CDT

(Newser) – Many uncertainties remain about the mutated form of the new coronavirus that has been under study as it quickly spreads. But one question about G614 has been resolved, researchers said Thursday. "This is now the virus," said Erica Ollmann Saphire, who worked on a study published in Cell, reports CNN. "It is now the dominant form infecting people," she said, having supplanted D614, which first went through Europe and the US. Some earlier impressions of the mutation are unchanged: Genetic sequence work and experiments conducted by an international team, which reported partial findings earlier in the year, support the indications that G614 is more likely to infect people but isn't necessarily more dangerous to them. "We do know that the new virus is fitter," said Saphire, of the La Jolla Institute for Immunology. "It doesn't look at first glance as if it is worse."

Efforts to develop a vaccine could be affected; they're based on earlier strains. The mutated coronavirus could carry a higher viral load, Dr. Anthony Fauci said, per ScienceAlert. "We don't have a connection to whether an individual does worse with this or not," he said. The team's earlier work had been criticized by the editors of Cell and others for not demonstrating whether the mutated form was taking over because it had mutated, or because of random or other reasons. In fact, nearly all evidence so far points to probable, not certain, conclusions. But the importance of the mutation's emergence is clear. "Whether through natural selection or chance," said a Yale viologist not involved in the work, "this variant now is the pandemic." (Read more coronavirus stories.)

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