Fauci warns new coronavirus mutation may cause virus to spread more easily

Anthony Fauci, a key member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, warned Thursday that a new strain of the coronavirus found to be dominant around the world may contain a mutation that allows it to spread from person-to-person with more ease.

In an interview with The Journal of the American Medical Association, Fauci referenced an article published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Cell that pointed to a new, prevalent virus strain thought to have first spread in Italy.

He said it is possible this strain carries a higher viral load in the respiratory system, thereby making human transmission more likely.

“The data is showing there’s a single mutation that makes the virus be able to replicate better and maybe have high viral loads,” Fauci said.

“It just seems that the virus replicates better and may be more transmissible,” he continued.

The study, which was released by researchers affiliated with the Sheffield COVID-19 Genomics Group, stated Thursday that the new strain “has become the most prevalent form in the global pandemic.”

“The shift occurred even in local epidemics where the original [strain of the virus] D614 form was well established prior to the introduction of the G614 variant,” the scientists wrote in their abstract, referring to the strain of coronavirus thought to have originated in Wuhan, China.

“The consistency of this pattern was highly statistically significant, suggesting that the G614 variant may have a fitness advantage,” they continued.

Scientists with the study cautioned, however, that there was no evidence that the prevalent strain was more severe.

“In infected individuals G614 is associated with lower RT-PCR cycle thresholds, suggestive of higher upper respiratory tract viral loads, although not with increased disease severity,” they wrote.

Fauci seemingly confirmed that statement, telling The Journal of the American Medical Association: “We don’t have a connection to whether an individual does worse with this or not.”

The U.S. has seen more than 2.7 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus as of Thursday night, more than any other country in the world. 

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