Coronavirus is said to be mutating like any other virus and the new COVID-19 strain is considered to be 10 times more contagious than the original one, a study done in Florida says. Ever since the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 took over the world after it first appeared in China in January and they have found that the mutated virus strains spread quicker than the previous one. As pet researchers at The Scripps Research Institute, the new strain is spreading in Europe and the U.S. have a "mutated S “spike” protein that makes it about 10 times more infectious than the strain that originally was identified in Asia." The experts say in the research published online on bioRxiv (and hasn't been peer-reviewed)
Fortunately, the mutation doesn't affect the lethality of COVID-19 which means the impact of coronavirus on a patient is same as the original ones, except it just has become more contagious. The original strain in China is called D614, while the one found in the UK, Italy and North America by May is dubbed G614 and it more or less explains why the numbers in these places have spiked to rapidly. The S “spike” protein, on the surface of the virus gains entry to cells while D614, often broke off while attempting to bind to ACE2 receptors in people’s airways which means the original one was weaker than compared to the mutated ones. Hyeryun Cho, lead researcher of the study by the Scripps Institute, told the Washington Post that the mutation appeared to “compensate” for the fragility of the spike protein in the past.
The study by Cho and colleagues noted, “An interesting question is why viruses carrying the more stable SG614 appear to be more transmissible without resulting in a major observable difference in disease severity. It is possible that higher levels of functional S protein observed with SG614 increase the chance of host-to-host transmission, but that other factors limit the rate and efficiency of intra-host replication.”
“A clear and consistent pattern was observed in almost every place where adequate sampling was available,” the researchers said. “In most countries and states where COVID-19 epidemic was initiated and where sequences were sampled prior to March 1, the D614 form was the dominant local form early in the epidemic. Wherever G614 entered a population, a rapid rise in its frequency followed, and in many cases, G614 became the dominant local form in a matter off only a few weeks.”
They believe that the mutation not only makes it easier for the virus to infect people, but more likely to spread, partially because the patients with the new mutation appeared to have a higher viral load when infected with the tougher strain, meaning higher amounts of virus circulating in their body.