A common mutation of the novel coronavirus seen in the United States may be more infectious but less deadly, according to recent reports. The World Health Organization (WHO) and infectious disease experts told Fox News the mutation of coronavirus is known as D614G and is predominately in North America.
“The D614G strain was first identified in February; it is presently the predominant strain in North America and Europe and is now back in Asia," the WHO told Fox News in an email.
“It has been thought that there are at least six different strain types and this is the dominant one that has taken over," Dr. Ravina Kullar, an epidemiologist, told Fox News.
“This mutated strain is thought to be more transmissible/contagious than the original strain, but this has only been shown in the lab thus far where it was shown to have more viral load," Kullar, a member of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, added.
Kullar referred to two studies published in the Journal Cell that she said suggested “this mutated strain was 10 times more infectious than the original strain but less deadly.” The infectious disease specialist cautioned an epidemiological study needs to be done confirming these findings in people, not just a lab.
A virus typically starts out very virulent and deadly and slowly mutates so the host survives, Kullar said.
“This allows it to live in a dormant state in the host and potentially reappear at a later point," she explained.
Kullar noted more studies are needed to evaluate how lethal the mutated virus strain is. She pondered if the spike in cases is not due to the actual strain, but rather due to people not adhering to social distancing rules.
“More data is needed in individuals (not just in the lab) that show that this virus is becoming less deadly. I believe that those that are more susceptible have already been impacted and now we are seeing younger individuals impacted due to the mass gatherings/parties (indoors and outdoors) and us clinicians are getting better at treating patients that have COVID-19," the infectious disease specialist said.
Dr. Paul Tambyah, an infectious disease expert, told Reuters that data suggests the D614G mutation proliferation has coincided with a drop in death rates in some parts of the world.
“Maybe that’s a good thing to have a virus that is more infectious but less deadly," told Tambyah, also the president-elect of the International Society of Infectious Diseases and a senior consultant at the National University of Singapore, to the news outlet.
Mutations of viruses are common, experts told Fox News.
“Changes in viruses happen all the time. What is important is that we're tracking these strains,” the WHO stated in their email to Fox News, noting that “a working group is studying changes (mutations) in the virus to understand which strain is behaving differently.”
While they continue their studies, Kullar said people need to continue to follow precautions.
“Everyone needs to keep masking up, physically distancing, implementing hand hygiene, and stop those mass parties," she said.