Coronavirus mutations: D614G could make disease more contagious


NEW DELHI: Even as the novel Coronavirus continues to spread its venom across the world, a research has warned that a particular mutation in the virus spike protein could make COVID-19 more contagious. The study led by scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory, including an Indian researcher Dr Tanmoy Bhattacharya an alumnus of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, warned that a mutation called D614G in the spike protein – the major surface protein the SARS-CoV-2 virus uses to invade human cells – is becoming dominant worldwide, reports Times Now. Researchers fear that the strain could make the virus more infectious.

In India, an analysis of 82 strains of coronavirus by India-born Prof SS Vasan and his colleagues from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia found that nearly 50 per cent of these strains have the new mutation. Worldwide, nearly, two-thirds of all virus strains showed this mutation.

“The mutation Spike D614G is of urgent concern; it began spreading in Europe in early February, and when introduced to new regions it rapidly becomes the dominant form,” the authors wrote in the preprint server for Biology, bioRXiV. As many as fourteen mutations in ‘spike’ that are accumulating have been identified to date, the authors said.

As per a Times of India report, the CSIRO scientists and Dr Vinod Scaria at India’s CSIR Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology are working closely together in this context.

Researchers are yet to come up with a conclusion on whether virus mutations will impact the severity of the disease or interfere with the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccine.

“Based on what we know at this point, we do not believe that this pose serious concerns about vaccine development similar to seasonal influenza, where we need to tweak the vaccine each year for Northern and Southern Hemispheres. However, as many vaccines for COVID-19 target the spike region we will keep a close watch on this and other mutations as lockdowns are gradually lifted,” Prof Vasan, who heads the Dangerous Pathogens Team at CSIRO, was quoted as saying.

“We analysed 7,176 high-quality genome sequences and roughly two-thirds of these global strains exhibited the D614G mutation. But only 48% of the 82 Indian sequences displayed this mutation. Australia is comparable, with 50% of the 717 sequences displaying the mutation,” Vasan’s colleague Dr Denis C Bauer, who leads CSIRO bioinformatics told the newspaper.