A massive, not-yet-peer-reviewed study from 25 scientists out of Houston today tracked more than 5,000 genomes from the first detection of COVID-19 through the most recent wave.
The study found that one specific mutation has made the virus more contagious.
"Virtually all strains in the second wave have a Gly614 amino acid... a [mutation] that has been linked to increased transmission and infectivity," the scientists said today.
Patients infected with the newer COVID-19 strains that contain Gly614 had significantly more viral particles detected in their upper throats when diagnosed.
The increase in contagiousness does not mean the virus is any more deadly. However, it does point to some previously unknown facts about the COVID-19 pandemic.
The virus could be "responding to such interventions as mask-wearing and social distancing," Anthony Fauci's advisor David Morens told the Washington Post today in response to this study.
"Wearing masks, washing our hands... as the virus becomes more contagious it statistically is better at getting around those barriers," Morens continued.
A study of 5,000+ coronavirus genomes found several emerging, intriguing mutations in Houston. These mutations might not be meaningful now. But the more genetic diversity the virus has, the more prepared it is to evolve away from future treatments.https://t.co/h5gNvlUedu— Sarah Kaplan (@sarahkaplan48) September 23, 2020
The study points to COVID's ability to overcome human immune responses, leading it to follow the same path as the flu. The Coronavirus would mutate ahead of humans' ability to immunize against it, and an eventual vaccine will only keep it at bay as scientists make constant modifications.
This, however, can't be confirmed without the test of time.
The study does, however, conclude that rising case numbers in the U.S. during the "second wave" of COVID-19 is the result of mutations linked to increased transmissibility.
Since the start of the #COVID19 pandemic, we have worked on a variety of fronts to study SARS-CoV-2 and understand its genomics, and changes in spike and Rdrp, as we experienced two waves in Houston. We released that preprint today. https://t.co/BQ0oHhGZhi— S. Wesley Long (@drswlong) September 23, 2020