In a piece of worrying news, scientists in Houston have found new mutations of the novel coronavirus and revealed that one of the mutations could make it more contagious. The revelation comes after scientists conducted a study of over 5,000 genetic sequences of coronavirus which reveals the virus’ continuous accumulation of mutations. Also Read - COVID-19: Coronavirus Infection May Damage Your Heart, Warns Delhi Doctor
However, the new report did not find that these mutations have made the virus deadlier or changed clinical outcomes. All viruses accumulate genetic mutations, and most are insignificant, scientists say, as per a report by The Washington Post.
Study author James Musser of Houston Methodist Hospital said that coronaviruses like SARS-CoV-2 are relatively stable as viruses go since they have a proofreading mechanism as they replicate.
“But every mutation is a roll of the dice, and with the transmission so widespread in the US — which continues to see tens of thousands of new, confirmed infections daily — the virus has had abundant opportunities to change, potentially with troublesome consequences,” Musser said.
The findings also pointed out the strong possibility that the virus, which moved through the population, became more transmissible, and this “may have implications for our ability to control it”, said David Morens, a virologist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
However, he stated that the virus could be responding potentially through random mutations to interventions such as social distancing and wearing of masks.
“Wearing masks, washing our hands, all those things are barriers to transmissibility or contagion, but as the virus becomes more contagious it statistically is better at getting around those barriers,” he said.
The virus could be also under selective pressure to evade the human immune response as people gain immunity either through infections or a vaccine.
Previous studies have shown that the coronavirus is mutating and evolving as it adapts to its human hosts.