Nav: Home

New, more infectious strain of COVID-19 now dominates global cases of virus

July 02, 2020

Researchers have shown that a variation in the viral genome of Covid-19 improved its ability to infect human cells and helped it become the dominant strain circulating around the world today.

The study, published today in the journal Cell, shows the variation is more infectious in cell cultures under laboratory conditions. The variant, named 'D614G', makes a small but effective change in the 'spike' glycoprotein that protrudes from the surface of the virus, which it uses to enter and infect human cells.

The D614G variant of Covid-19 quickly took over as the dominant strain soon after it first appeared, with geographic samples showing a significant shift in viral population from the original, to the new strain of the virus.

Researchers from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and Duke University in North Carolina, partnered with the University of Sheffield's Covid-19 Genomics UK research group to analyse genome samples published on GISAID, an international resource for sharing genome sequences among researchers worldwide.

Dr Thushan de Silva, Senior Clinical Lecturer in Infectious Diseases at the University of Sheffield, led analysis of data from Sheffield. He said: "We have been sequencing SARS-CoV-2 strains in Sheffield since early in the pandemic and this allowed us to partner with our collaborators to show this mutation had become dominant in circulating strains. The full peer-reviewed study published today confirms this, and also that the new D614G genome mutation variant is also more infectious under laboratory conditions.

"Data provided by our team in Sheffield suggested that the new strain was associated with higher viral loads in the upper respiratory tract of patients with Covid-19, meaning the virus's ability to infect people could be increased.

"Fortunately at this stage, it does not seem that viruses with D614G cause more severe disease."

Dr Bette Korber, from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, was the lead author of the study. She said: "It is possible to track SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19) evolution globally because researchers worldwide are rapidly making their viral sequence data available through the GISAID viral sequence database. Currently tens of thousands of sequences are available through this project, and this enabled us to identify the emergence of a variant that has rapidly become the globally dominant form."

New supporting experiments, more extensive sequencing and clinical data, and improved statistical models have been published today in full at Cell, however the researchers are keen to stress that further laboratory analysis in live cells needs to be done to determine the full implications of the mutation.

"It's remarkable to me," commented Dr Will Fischer, from Los Alamos National Laboratory and an author on the study. "That this increase in infectivity was detected by careful observation of sequence data alone, and that our experimental colleagues could confirm it with live virus in such a short time."
-end-
Notes to editors:
    - You can access the full paper 'Tracking SARS-CoV-2 Spike mutations: evidence for increased infectivity of D614G' in the journal Cell.

    - The research was uploaded to bioRxiv in April, and was accessed over 200,00 times by researchers around the world, a record for the preprint site.

    - GISAID, the Global Initiative for Sharing All Influenza Data, established a COVID-19 database early in the epidemic for sharing outbreak sequences among researchers worldwide.

    - The research was supported by the Medical Research Council (MRC); the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR); Genome Research Limited, operating as the Wellcome Sanger Institute; CoVIC, INV-006133 of the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Mastercard, Wellcome; private philanthropic support, as well as the Overton family; a FastGrant, from Emergent Ventures, in aid of COVID-19 research; and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, under Interagency Agreement No. AAI12007-001-00000, and the Los Alamos National Laboratory Directed Research and Development program.
The University of Sheffield

With almost 29,000 of the brightest students from over 140 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world's leading universities.

A member of the UK's prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.

Sheffield is the only university to feature in The Sunday Times 100 Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to Work For 2018 and for the last eight years has been ranked in the top five UK universities for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education.

Sheffield has six Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.

Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Siemens and Airbus, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.

The National Institute for Health Research

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is the nation's largest funder of health and care research. The NIHR:

- Funds, supports and delivers high quality research that benefits the NHS, public health and social care

- Engages and involves patients, carers and the public in order to improve the reach, quality and impact of research

- Attracts, trains and supports the best researchers to tackle the complex health and care challenges of the future

- Invests in world-class infrastructure and a skilled delivery workforce to translate discoveries into improved treatments and services

- Partners with other public funders, charities and industry to maximise the value of research to patients and the economy

The NIHR was established in 2006 to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research, and is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. In addition to its national role, the NIHR commissions applied health research to benefit the poorest people in low- and middle-income countries, using Official Development Assistance funding.

University of Sheffield

Related Data Articles:

Ups and downs in COVID-19 data may be caused by data reporting practices
As data accumulates on COVID-19 cases and deaths, researchers have observed patterns of peaks and valleys that repeat on a near-weekly basis.
Data centers use less energy than you think
Using the most detailed model to date of global data center energy use, researchers found that massive efficiency gains by data centers have kept energy use roughly flat over the past decade.
Storing data in music
Researchers at ETH Zurich have developed a technique for embedding data in music and transmitting it to a smartphone.
Life data economics: calling for new models to assess the value of human data
After the collapse of the blockchain bubble a number of research organisations are developing platforms to enable individual ownership of life data and establish the data valuation and pricing models.
Geoscience data group urges all scientific disciplines to make data open and accessible
Institutions, science funders, data repositories, publishers, researchers and scientific societies from all scientific disciplines must work together to ensure all scientific data are easy to find, access and use, according to a new commentary in Nature by members of the Enabling FAIR Data Steering Committee.
Democratizing data science
MIT researchers are hoping to advance the democratization of data science with a new tool for nonstatisticians that automatically generates models for analyzing raw data.
Getting the most out of atmospheric data analysis
An international team including researchers from Kanazawa University used a new approach to analyze an atmospheric data set spanning 18 years for the investigation of new-particle formation.
Ecologists ask: Should we be more transparent with data?
In a new Ecological Applications article, authors Stephen M. Powers and Stephanie E.
Should you share data of threatened species?
Scientists and conservationists have continually called for location data to be turned off in wildlife photos and publications to help preserve species but new research suggests there could be more to be gained by sharing a rare find, rather than obscuring it, in certain circumstances.
Futuristic data storage
The development of high-density data storage devices requires the highest possible density of elements in an array made up of individual nanomagnets.
More Data News and Data Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Warped Reality
False information on the internet makes it harder and harder to know what's true, and the consequences have been devastating. This hour, TED speakers explore ideas around technology and deception. Guests include law professor Danielle Citron, journalist Andrew Marantz, and computer scientist Joy Buolamwini.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

How to Win Friends and Influence Baboons
Baboon troops. We all know they're hierarchical. There's the big brutish alpha male who rules with a hairy iron fist, and then there's everybody else. Which is what Meg Crofoot thought too, before she used GPS collars to track the movements of a troop of baboons for a whole month. What she and her team learned from this data gave them a whole new understanding of baboon troop dynamics, and, moment to moment, who really has the power.  This episode was reported and produced by Annie McEwen. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.