by several researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, where the atomic bomb was invented, claims that a new strain of the novel COVID-19 is more contagious than the original form of the virus.
The study, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, looked at 14 mutations in the "spike protein," which mediates the infection of human cells and is therein targeted by most attempted vaccines for the virus. Of those mutations, one stood out, according to the study, for spreading much more aggressively than the original strain of the virus.
That same mutation was originally seen spreading in Europe, after which it spread to the rest of the world. That is currently the most common strain. This was found through a computational analysis of thousands of coronavirus sequences found around the world by the Global Initiative for Sharing All Influenza Data, theLos Angeles Times
The report claimed that people who catch this strain are at an increased risk of catching the illness a second time, which is why the authors felt that an early warning was necessary so that vaccines and drugs that are in development may be effective against the mutated strain, according to theLA Times
Because of the rate at which this new strain is spreading, it is possible that it is more infectious than the previous strains of the virus. The reason is not yet known.
According to theLA Times
, responses tothe study
were generally positive, if a bit hesitant towards the study. Biochemistry professor from University of Iowa Charles Brenner said that researchers looking into coronavirus are keeping their eyes peeled for such studies, and that it is a useful paper. However, the study does not indicate that the new strain makes people more sick, and so the risk is put in question.
Co-director of Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development Dr. Peter Hotez said that the study's conclusions need to be investigated further, according to theLA Times
. Without experimental verification, the claims in the study are all theoretical, Hotez explained.
The main concern is that because many treatments that are being developed for coronavirus target the spike protein of the original strain, it may not be effective on the new one.