A worldwide research project has found clear evidence that a new form of the coronavirus has spread from Europe to the United States. Erica Ollmann Sapphires from the La Jolla Institute for Immunology in San Diego and the global Coronavirus Immunotherapy Consortium says CNN about the mutation: “This is now the predominant form that infects humans.”
The team carried out experiments with humans, animals and cells in laboratory dishes. The new version multiplies faster in the upper airways – nose, sinuses and throat – which results in a three to nine times higher risk of infection. «We know that the new virus is fitter. According to the initial findings, it is not worse, »says Saphire.
On the rise since the end of March
The mutation affects the spike protein, the structure with which the virus docks onto human cells and then penetrates the cell through the cell membrane. The researchers call the mutation G614. The investigations show that it has practically completely replaced the first version, D614.
The team tested samples from patients in Europe and the United States. The researchers note: “Until March 1, 2020, the G614 variant was rare outside Europe, but at the end of March it increased in frequency worldwide.”
Hope for vaccines
Positive: The G614 mutation can be better neutralized by convalescence serum, i.e. by the blood product of people who have recovered from a corona infection. This gives hope for a vaccine soon.
In any case, David Montefiore from Duke University in North Carolina says: “With this special mutation we could possibly avoid a fired bullet.”
It is definitely too early to breathe easy because there could be other mutations. Montefiore: “It is our duty to remain vigilant.” (gf)