Researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the United States have detected 14 mutations in the COVID-19[female[feminine peak virus proteins, one of which – known as peak D614G – which they said was “an urgent concern”.
Their research paper suggests that the mutated strain of coronavirus that has become dominant around the world has been identified for the first time in Europe and is different from those that spread at the start of the pandemic.
The problem is so urgent that the research paper outlining their findings was made public before being peer reviewed, although this has raised concerns among observers.
By analyzing more than 6,000 genetic sequences from coronavirus samples from patients around the world, the researchers found that the mutated strain was persistently becoming the most dominant version of the virus in all regions where it was detected.
Although first discovered in Europe in early February, researchers estimate coronavirus the mutation has now become the most common strain worldwide.
The study says it has consistently surpassed the original strain detected in Wuhan, which spread to this region of China and some other Asian countries before March.
Dr. Bette Korber, lead author of the study, said: “The story is disturbing because we see a mutated form of the virus emerging very quickly, and during the month of March becoming the dominant pandemic form.
“When viruses carrying this mutation enter a population, they quickly start to take over the local epidemic, so they are more transmissible.”
The advanced protein mutation has raised concerns because it is one of the most effective parts of the virus and the aspect targeted by most treatments and vaccines.
For example, the discovery of a “revolutionary” antibody – which prevents the virus from infecting human cells – works by binding to this protein instead of allowing it to bind to cells and replicate.
Advanced proteins are molecules outside the virus that it uses to capture and then penetrate the outer walls of human and animal cells.
There are two key characteristics in the protein which have been attributed to its enormous infectious capacity.
The first is called the receptor binding domain (RBD), which they describe as “a kind of grapple that adheres to host cells”, while the second is known as the cleavage site, “a molecular can opener that allows the virus to open and enter host cells. “
Researchers recognize that they don’t know how mutations have changed these key characteristics.
However, the fact that the team’s findings have not yet been peer-reviewed has raised concerns among observers, who fear that the potentially alarming report will be scrutinized before it is released.
On the website hosting the study, one user suggested that the “manuscript title seems a bit misleading” and warned that the prevalence of the mutated peak protein could be a matter of correlation rather than causation.
Although the mutated form of the virus quickly becomes superior to that originally detected in Wuhan, the researchers say they are not sure of their hypothesis that this is due to the mutation of the peak protein rather than another mutation .
Given the “vital importance of advanced protein both in terms of viral infectivity and as an antibody target, we have felt the urgent need for an“ early warning ”pipeline to assess the ‘Evolution of the peak pandemic,’ said the study authors.