A new study has found evidence Covid-19 has mutated to become more infectious.
The study, titled Tracking changes in SARS-CoV-2 Spike: Evidence that D614G increases infectivity of the COVID-19 virus, was recently published in the journal Cell after a lengthy review process.
The study found the dominant global strain of Covid-19 is now the a variant coined G614, which spread to the US from Europe. Previously, D614 was the dominant strain, according to the study.
A mutation to the virus’ spike protein – its mechanism for attaching to cells – is what sets it apart from the previous variant.
"It is now the dominant form infecting people," professor Erica Ollmann Saphire of the La Jolla Institute for Immunology and the Coronavirus Immunotherapy Consortium, who worked on the study, told CNN.
"This is now the virus."
People with the G614 strain were found to have higher viral loads, with the virus situated more in the upper respiratory tract, making it easier to spread.
However, even though the mutation is believed to increase infectivity, it doesn’t look to have made the virus more deadly.
"We do know that the new virus is fitter. It doesn't look at first glance as if it is worse," Dr Saphire said.
Also speaking to CNN, professor David Montefiore of Duke University tested the virus in a lab setting and came to the following conclusion: "All the results agreed that the G form was three to nine times more infectious than the D form."
The new findings may have implications for vaccine research, according to Dr Montefiore.
"There are potential consequences for the vaccines. We are actively investigating those possible consequences."