Scientists tracking coronavirus (Sars-Cov-2) have spotted thousands of COVID-19 mutations of the virus’s genetic material since it first emerged in China last year.
The coronavirus is changing slowly compared to any other virus or seasonal flu. A notable mutation called D614G situated within the protein making up the virus’s “spike” it uses to break into our cells probably first found in Italy is now seen in almost 97 percent of the samples around the world.
Viruses mutate constantly. They sometimes change or otherwise simply remain neutral.
Dr Thushan de Silva, at the University of Sheffield believes the D614G mutation has a “selective advantage” – an evolutionary edge – over the earlier version.
The changes in the spike protein of the virus makes it easily latch on to human cells allowing it to “stick together better and function more efficiently”.
When studied in laboratory conditions, the mutated virus was better at entering human cells than those without the variation, says professors Hyeryun Choe and Michael Farzan, at Scripps University in Florida.
Therefore, the current mutation is making the virus better at spreading. This also explains why there is a sudden spike in the number of infections globally.