Some research suggests an early mutation in the SARS-CoV-2 genome may have enabled the virus to spread more easily, the New York Times reports.
The Times notes that the 614G alteration was first seen in eastern China and spread across Europe and to New York. While this quick spread raised some suspicions that this variant might be spreading more easily, scientists were not convinced and said the increased spread could be due to luck, it adds. But additional data has changed some scientists' minds, according to the Times.
For instance, it reports that work from the UK found that when a community outbreak was spurred by a 614G strain, the outbreak grew more quickly than when an outbreak was caused by the ancestral strain. Additionally, hamsters exposed to strains with the variant infected each other more quickly and lung cells in culture were infected more quickly when given that strain, it adds.
The University of Washington's Trevor Bedford tells the Times that the additional evidence has convinced him the effect is real. Kristian Andersen from Scripps Research Institute notes, though, the effect of the variant may be limited, but adds that it could explain why countries that at first had success in containing the virus are now struggling. "What you used to do may not be quite enough to control it," he tells the Times.