Philippines, Southeast Asia’s epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, detects a mutated strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus believed to be more infectious than the original variant.
A new dominant strain of coronavirus, believed to be more infectious, was reported last week by researchers from Philippine Genome Center. The strain was found in a small sample of positive cases taken from Quezon City.
Malaysia has also reported the same mutated strain found in a cluster of 45 cases that originate from someone who returned from India and breached his 14-day home quarantine. He has since been sentenced to five months in prison and fined for breaching quarantine.
The new coronavirus strain has been said to have a change in the amino acid at position 614 from aspartic acid (D) to glycine (G), hence its name D614G.
According to Bloomberg news, the strain has been found in many other countries and has become the predominant variant in Europe and the U.S., with the World Health Organization saying there’s no evidence the strain leads to a more severe disease. The mutation has also been detected in recent outbreaks in China.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said Monday that the mutation “is said to have a higher possibility of transmission or infectiousness, but we still don’t have enough solid evidence to say that that will happen.”
According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the U.S. National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the novel coronavirus is showing some signs of mutating in a way that may make it easier for the pathogen to spread.
Fauci said in a virtual event hosted by the Journal of the American Medical Association, a single mutation affecting a specific amino acid is emerging that allows the virus to replicate better and create a higher viral load, measures that could make it easier to transmit.
CNN has also reported that an international team of researchers in July found clear evidence that this new form of the coronavirus is more infectious. A global study published in the journal Cell said the new version seems to multiply faster in the upper respiratory tract — the nose, sinuses and throat which would explain why it passes around more easily. But the bright side is that patients infected with the new strain of the coronavirus were not more severely affected, according to the study.
Meanwhile, infectious diseases expert Dr. Benjamin Co stressed that the newly discovered D614G coronavirus mutation is “more infectious but not necessarily deadlier.”
“The G variant has more spike proteins, so the ability of having more spike proteins makes it now more infectious. But there are two schools of thought on it, one is the gene mutation actually makes it more stable and the other it doesn’t make it more stable which allows the spike proteins to shift.”DR. BENJAMIN CO IN AN INTERVIEW WITH CNN PHILIPPINES
Philippines, the country has the longest ongoing lockdown worldwide, on Monday reported 3,314 new COVID-19 cases. To date, 164,474 people have been infected with COVID-19 with 49,043 active cases or individuals who are still sick.
Despite the alarming number of cases, President Duterte has announced the ease of lockdown measures in a televised briefing from Davao. He has downgraded the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) in the National Capital Region, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, Nueva Ecija, Batangas, Quezon, Iloilo City, Cebu City, Lapu Lapu City, Mandaue City, Talisay City, Minglanilla, Consolacion to general community quarantine (GCQ) until Aug. 31.
The rest of the Philippines, meanwhile, will stay under modified general community quarantine.