The Daily Telegraph

Virus is more infectious than before, but not more deadly

- By Laura Donnelly and Jack Hardy

A MORE infectious mutation of Covid-19 is now the most dominant strand of the virus, with clusters forming more quickly than was the case in Wuhan, a genetic expert has warned.

Prof Nick Loman, of the University of Birmingham, said the mutation, known as D614G, meant transmissi­on was speedier – but no more deadly – than had first been the case.

He said the variant now made up 75 per cent of cases in the world.

Prof Loman, part of the Covid-19 Genomics Consortium, said the new mutation of the virus did not seem to cause a greater risk of death or lengthier hospital stays, but to make it spread more easily.

The findings come after scientists analysed more than 40,000 genomes in the UK and found D614G mainly increases transmissi­bility in human cases, according to Prof Loman.

“It exists in the spike protein, which is a very important way that the coronaviru­s can enter human cells, and we have been noticing in the UK and worldwide that this mutation has been increasing in frequency,” he told Today on BBC Radio 4,

“This mutation was predicted ... to have some impact on the structure of that protein, and the ability of the virus to bind and enter cells. Then, quite recently, was shown in laboratory experiment­s to increase the infectivit­y of cells.”

Prof Loman said he did not expect the new mutation to impact the process of finding a vaccine for Covid-19, particular­ly given its prevalence globally. “Any vaccine trial will of course include patients that will encounter this mutation because this is the most dominant mutation; it’s about 75 per cent of cases. I don’t think this will have an impact on the vaccine,” he said.

“This increase in this mutation is a worldwide phenomenon. The original virus out of Wuhan had the D-type, but the G-type has become much more dominant across the world, including the UK.”

He quelled concerns that the mutation might mean the pandemic is entering into a deadly new phase, saying the impact was apparently confined in a small way to transmissi­bility.

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