Coronavirus changing to spread faster, new study says

While the virus may be spreading faster, there was no indication it has mutated into a more dangerous disease.

NEW ORLEANS — A team of scientists at Houston’s Methodist Hospital studied the genetic makeup of the Coronavirus. 

They analyzed more than 5,000 specimens, comparing the first wave of infections this spring to the second wave this summer. 

Researchers found that a more contagious strain dominates recent samples. 

“That mutation seems to make the virus basically more successful in spreading in communities,” said Dr. S. Wesley Long, one of the authors of the study. 

While the virus may be spreading faster, there was no indication it has mutated into a more dangerous disease.   

“Even with this virus that may spread perhaps more easily, person-to-person, it in no way is any more deadly or more severe than any other strain of the Coronavirus,” Long said. 

Dr. Lucio Miele is head of Genetics and Precision Medicine at LSU Health New Orleans. 

He says the Houston study tells him, the virus is changing and that could have a significant impact on finding a COVID-19 vaccine. 

“It is possible that we’re going to have to modify the vaccine at intervals of time, not necessarily every year because this doesn’t appear to be a seasonal infection,” Miela said. “But, if the virus becomes different enough, we may have to keep changing the vaccine to keep up with it.” 

Researchers say that’s another reason to do what we can slow the spread of the virus. 

Every time someone gets it, there’s an increased chance for mutation. 

“The less viruses reproduce, the less likely it is that they’re going to find a new trick to become more infectious,” Miela said. 

“We still need to be wearing masks, social distancing, washing our hands, avoiding large gatherings all those sorts of things,” Long said. 

Both LSUHSC and Ochsner Health in New Orleans are conducting Coronavirus research like the one at Houston Methodist Hospital. 

Dr. Miela at LSU said just because Houston has a certain strain of the Coronavirus, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the same strain dominant in New Orleans. 

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