The Jakarta Post
This image, provided by the National Institute of Health on Feb. 27 and taken with a scanning electron microscope, shows the SARS-CoV-2 (yellow) virus emerging from the surface of cells (blue/pink) cultured in a lab. (AFP/National Institutes of Health/Handout)
The Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology has reportedly detected a mutated variant of the coronavirus in Indonesia that is deemed more infectious than the original strain found in Wuhan, China.
The mutation, widely known as the D614G mutation, has been found in eight of 22 whole genome sequences reported in Indonesia, Eijkman Institute chairman Amin Soebandrio told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.
He added that researchers had yet to estimate the percentage of infected people carrying the mutated variant, but Amin believes the mutated strain had been spread to most patients in the country.
“Currently, D614G accounts for nearly 40 percent of the genomes reported in Indonesia, but if we analyze more samples, we might come up with clearer information,” said Amin.
The researcher added that the mutated virus was 10 times more transferrable from cell to cell than the original strain found in China. That conclusion, however, was so far limited to cells in laboratory cultures.
“More studies are necessary to know whether this also occurs in humans.”
Amin also said more studies were needed to confirm greater severity or any new symptoms possibly caused by the mutated variant.
He added that the mutation would not affect the efficacy of potential vaccines currently being tested, as it did not alter the virus’ receptor binding domain that allowed the virus to infect cells. Most vaccines under development target this part of the coronavirus.
“We will keep conducting the whole genome sequencing process to understand the characteristics of the mutation. These sequences are important epidemiological data to trace the virus' mobility,” said Amin.
Health experts have advised people to wear masks while outside their homes and to wash their hands with soap regularly to avoid contracting the coronavirus.
The D614G strain was first detected in Germany in late January and is commonly found in the United States and Europe. It was also recently detected in Malaysia, with health authorities reporting it in four cases from two clusters in the country, as reported by The Star.
In a paper titled Tracking Changes in SARS-CoV-2 Spike: Evidence that D614G Increases Infectivity of the COVID-19 Virus, Bette Korber of Los Alamos National Laboratory in the United States and other researchers said “the variant carrying the D614G spike mutation became the globally dominant form of SARS-CoV-2” over the course of one month.
Other researchers, including Yale School of Public Health’s Nathan Grubaugh et al., said “the impact of the mutation on transmission, disease and vaccine and therapeutic development are largely unknown.”
“It is clear from the in vitro and clinical data that G614 has a distinct phenotype, but whether this is the result of bona fide adaptation to human ACE2, whether it increases transmissibility, or will have a notable effect is not clear,” Grubaugh wrote.
Editors’ note: The article has been updated with more information from other researchers.
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