Thursday, September 24, 2020

Massive genetic study shows coronavirus mutating and potentially evolving amid rapid U.S. spread

 
The largest U.S. genetic study of the virus, conducted in Houston, shows one viral strain outdistancing all of its competitors, and many potentially important mutations.


By Chris Mooney, Joel Achenbach and Joe Fox 

Scientists in Houston on Wednesday released a study of more than 5,000 genetic sequences of the coronavirus that reveals the virus’s continual accumulation of mutations, one of which may have made it more contagious.

The new report, however, did not find that these mutations have made the virus deadlier or changed clinical outcomes. All viruses accumulate genetic mutations, and most are insignificant, scientists say.

Coronaviruses such as SARS-CoV-2 are relatively stable as viruses go, because they have a proofreading mechanism as they replicate. But every mutation is a roll of the dice, and with transmission so widespread in the United States — which continues to see tens of thousands of new, confirmed infections daily — the virus has had abundant opportunities to change, potentially with troublesome consequences, said study author James Musser of Houston Methodist Hospital.  Read more >>