Has The Coronavirus Really Become More Contagious? Experts Are Skeptical

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Has The Coronavirus Really Become More Contagious? Experts Are Skeptical
Has The Coronavirus Really Become More Contagious? Experts Are Skeptical

Video: Has The Coronavirus Really Become More Contagious? Experts Are Skeptical

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Video: Disease control expert debunks coronavirus myths | Expert Opinion 2023, January
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Has the coronavirus really become more contagious? Experts are skeptical

Scientists have criticized the recently released study on the mutation of the virus, which could indicate a simpler spread. But they do not exclude that, theoretically, the emergence of more infectious strains is possible.

Has the coronavirus really become more contagious? Experts are skeptical
Has the coronavirus really become more contagious? Experts are skeptical

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The authors of the new study, which has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, believe the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus has become more infectious in recent months, meaning it is now easier to spread from person to person. Many media outlets published reports about this scientific work. But leading experts are very skeptical about the study's findings.

What the study authors claim

Research by scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory (New Mexico, USA) is posted on bioRxiv. For two months, the authors studied the evolution of SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of COVID-19, for this they analyzed the nucleotide sequences in the RNA of coronaviruses, which were isolated from different people at the stages of the spread of the virus in the world. They focused on examining the region of the genome responsible for S-protein synthesis, which the virus uses to enter cells.

According to this study, a strain of the virus that was obtained in Wuhan at the beginning of the pandemic had the D614 mutation in the S protein. Over time, as the virus spread across Europe, it was rapidly replaced by the G614 mutation.

The authors argue that the "replacement made" indicates the emergence of a more infectious strain of SARS-CoV-2. They believe this confirms the acceleration in the spread of COVID-19.

What's wrong with research?

The news that the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus may have become easier to transmit sounds threatening. Many scientists have responded to it and shared their opinion why there is no need to panic about the new study.

In a comment to Gizmodo, Bill Hanage, an epidemiologist at Harvard University's T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said more infectious strains of the virus are possible, but new research hardly demonstrates this. He agreed that the strain that emerged in Europe is responsible for more cases worldwide. But so far there is no reason to assert that it was this mutation that contributed to this.

“This could have happened because it is easier to transmit, but it could have been caused by the relatively late start of the fight against the spread of the virus,” he said. According to Henage, the data from New Mexico scientists are interesting but insufficient.

Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University, gave Gizmodo a more skeptical opinion:

“They haven't done a single experiment. There is no indication that this mutation makes the virus more infectious, they did nothing to show that this mutation is significant in terms of function."

A similar opinion was expressed in a commentary to The New York Times by Sergei Pond, an evolutionary biologist at Temple University:

“I don't think they have provided evidence of an increase in infectivity. To identify this, it is required to observe the competition of strains in a certain area."

Dr. Pond noted that the virus can undergo a mutation that will improve its transmission to other people, increase its survival rate and be passed on to its offspring. But so far this has not happened.

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