Scientists are trying to understand a mutation of the new coronavirus seen around the world that some believe could make the virus more contagious, according to a report.
The coronavirus mutation, officially designated D614G or "G" for short, has been found to affect the spike protein of the virus, which is a structure that allows it to enter human cells. The more effective the spike protein, the easier it can enter a host's body.
Research has suggested the mutation, which changes amino acid 614 from "D" (aspartic acid) to "G" (glycine). It could make the spike protein more effective, increasing the infectivity of the virus, according to the Washington Post.
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Researchers have found that of the approximately 50,000 genomes of the new virus loaded into a shared database, approximately 70 percent carried the mutation.
"The epidemiological study and our data together really explain why (variant G) spread in Europe and the United States was really fast," Scripps Research virologist Hyeryun Choe told the newspaper. "This is not just accidental."
Choe was the lead author of an unpublished study on the improved infectivity of variant G in laboratory cell cultures. He said there were a couple of reasons why "G" was more effective in spreading the virus.
In the mutation, the outer parts of those proteins that bind to a human receptor were less likely to break, which was a failure of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that originated in China and causes COVID-19.
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The faulty mechanism made SARS-CoV-2 more difficult to invade host cells, even though it was already quite effective. He added that "G" has more peak proteins and said those reasons made the mutation 10 times more infectious in laboratory experiments, according to The Post.
"I think this mutation happened to make up for it," Choe said.
The mutation was also found to be more contagious in four studies that have not yet been peer-reviewed. A study by scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory concluded that patients with the "G" mutation also have more viruses in their bodies, making them more likely to infect others, according to the report.
Others believe that more study is needed to determine how effective the mutation is in spreading the virus.
"The bottom line is that we haven't seen anything definitive yet," said Jeremy Luban, a virologist at the University of Massachusetts School of Medicine.
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Choe added that the mutation did not affect the severity of the virus, only how contagious it became, according to the document.