Mutant virus strain spreading rapidly
A strain of the coronavirus that was first seen in Italy is now the dominant strain of the virus infecting the world and it spreads much more quickly than earlier strains, a group of scientists has found.
Researchers working with the Sheffield COVID-19 Genomics Group announced that the new strain, called G614, "has become the most prevalent form in the global pandemic" after is crossed from Europe to America.
They say it has different characteristics to the D614 virus that appeared in Wuhan, China, the city where the coronavirus is believed to have originated.
They say G614 has almost completely replaced the first version to spread in Europe and the US, and they add that it has the potential to spread up to nine times more quickly.
However, the good news is that the new strain doesn't make its hosts any sicker than previous strains, the scientists said in the peer-reviewed science journal Cell.
"It is now the dominant form infecting people," Erica Ollmann Saphire of the La Jolla Institute for Immunology and the Coronavirus Immunotherapy Consortium, who worked on the study, told CNN. "This is now the virus."
However, scientists cannot agree on why the new strain is so dominant.
Although research suggests that the newer strain is more virulent, some scientist involved in the study that the dominance could be due to its spread in the US.
The United States has failed to curb its surge of new coronavirus infections and now it has more confirmed cases than any other country.
It now has more than 2.7 million confirmed cases of the virus, and on Thursday set another record for new coronavirus cases in a 24-hour period.
However, death rates there have dropped dramatically and that tallies with what the Sheffield teams says about how dangerous this new strain is.
They say there is no evidence yet to suggest G614 was a more severe strain than the one thought to have originated late last year in Wuhan.
The novel coronavirus has killed at least 522,246 people since the outbreak emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP.
At least 10,922,300 cases of coronavirus have been registered in 196 countries and territories. Of these, at least 5,619,700 are now considered recovered.
Many countries are testing only symptomatic or the most serious cases. The United States is the worst-hit country with 128,740 deaths from 2,739,879 cases. At least 781,970 people have been declared recovered.
After the US, the hardest-hit countries are Brazil with 61,884 deaths from 1,496,858 cases, the United Kingdom with 44,131 deaths from 284,276 cases, Italy with 34,833 deaths from 241,184 cases, and France with 29,893 deaths from 203,367 cases.
Originally published as Mutant strain spreads nine times faster