The mutated form of the new coronavirus that is now the most common strain worldwide is more infectious but may also be more vulnerable to vaccines under development, new research suggests.
In experiments reported on Thursday in Science, researchers saw that the newer strain, which originated in Europe, is more efficient at infecting airway cells and at making copies of itself, although it does not appear to produce more severe illness.
The D614G mutation causes a “flap” to open on the tip of a spike on the surface of the virus, improving its ability to break into cells, but also creating a pathway for antibodies in vaccines to enter the virus and disable it, the researchers explained in a statement.
New SARS-CoV-2 mutations are continually emerging, “like the recently discovered mink SARS-CoV-2 cluster 5 variant in Denmark that also encodes D614G,” coauthor Ralph Baric of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine said in the statement.
“We must continue to track and understand the consequences of these new mutations on disease severity, transmission, host range and vulnerability to vaccine-induced immunity,” he added.