Story at a glance

  • Tambyah told Reuters there’s evidence the D614G mutation is less lethal as the increase in the strain in some parts of the world has coincided with a drop in death rates.
  • “It is in the virus’ interest to infect more people but not to kill them because a virus depends on the host for food and for shelter,” an infectious disease expert told Reuters.
  • Experts note the mutation is unlikely to change the effectiveness of vaccines currently being developed.

Following the emergence of COVID-19 out of Wuhan, China, late last year, scientists as early as February discovered a slight mutation of the coronavirus that has now become a more predominant variant in Europe and North America and was recently found in parts of Asia. 

While the World Health Organization has said there is no evidence the D614G mutation has led to more harmful cases of COVID-19, there’s been some research indicating it may be much more infectious than the strain that first appeared in China. 


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A prominent infectious disease expert says a more infectious strain may actually be a good thing.

“Maybe that’s a good thing to have a virus that is more infectious but less deadly,” Paul Tambyah, senior consultant at the National University of Singapore and president-elect of the International Society of Infectious Diseases, told Reuters in an interview. 

Tambyah told the news outlet there’s evidence the D614G mutation is less lethal as the increase in the strain in some parts of the world has coincided with a drop in death rates. He noted that most viruses tend to become less virulent as they mutate. 

“It is in the virus’ interest to infect more people but not to kill them because a virus depends on the host for food and for shelter,” Tambyah told Reuters. 

The strain was found recently in a Malaysian cluster of 45 cases that stemmed from someone who returned from India and breached a 14-day home quarantine, prompting authorities there to urge people to take greater precautions. 

Malaysia’s Director-General of health Noor Hisham Abdullah on Sunday made the claim the D614G strain detected in the country was 10 times more infectious and may mean existing studies on vaccines may be incomplete or ineffective against the mutation.

Recent research, however, suggests the mutation is unlikely to have a major effect on the efficacy of vaccines currently being developed. 

Public health experts who spoke with Reuters agreed. 

“(The) variants are almost identical and did not change areas that our immune system typically [recognize], so there shouldn’t be any difference for vaccines being developed,” Sebastian Maurer-Stroh of Singapore’s agency for science, technology and research told Reuters. 

Published on Aug 18, 2020