Coronavirus is now more contagious than before as it mutates rapidly, scientists in Houston, Texas have said.
The scientists released on Wednesday, a study of more than 5,000 genetic sequences of the coronavirus that reveals the virus’s continual accumulation of mutations.
The new report, posted Wednesday on the preprint server MedRxiv, was published by Washington Post same day.
The study did not find whether these mutations have made the virus deadlier or changed clinical outcomes.
All viruses accumulate genetic mutations, and most are insignificant, scientists say.
With confirmed infections of the virus in America, everyday, the virus has had abundant opportunities to change, potentially with troublesome consequences, said study author James Musser of Houston Methodist Hospital.
“We have given this virus a lot of chances,” Musser told The Washington Post. “There is a huge population size out there right now.”
Scientists from Weill Cornell Medicine, the University of Chicago, Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Texas at Austin also contributed to the study.
David Morens, a virologist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, reviewed the new study and said the findings point to the strong possibility that the virus, as it has moved through the population, has become more transmissible, and that this “may have implications for our ability to control it.”
Morens noted that this is a single study, and “you don’t want to over-interpret what this means.”
But the virus, he said, could potentially be responding — through random mutations — to such interventions as mask-wearing and social distancing, Morens said Wednesday.
“Wearing masks, washing our hands, all those things are barriers to transmissibility, or contagion, but as the virus becomes more contagious it statistically is better at getting around those barriers,” said Morens, senior adviser to Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the NIAID.