Scientists have identified a new strain of the coronavirus that has become dominant in the world and which seems to be more contagious than the versions that spread in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study by scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory.
The new strain, which appeared in Europe in February, has migrated rapidly to the east coast of the United States and has been the dominant strain worldwide since mid-March, scientists said as reported by the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday.
In addition to spreading faster, this new strain of the virus can make people vulnerable to a second infection after a first attack with the disease, add the researchers.
The strain D614G is the one that would have struck around mid-March in New York State, strongly affected by COVID-19.
The 33-page report was published last Thursday on BioRxiv , a site that researchers use to share their work before peer review, an effort to accelerate collaborations between scientists working on vaccines or COVID-19 treatments.
Most research on a drug or vaccine against COVID-19 is based on the previous strain of the virus.
Thus, the authors of the report explained that they have the “urgent need to alert quickly” the scientific community so that the vaccines and drugs under development in the world are effective.
Wherever the new strain appeared, it would have quickly infected many more people than previous strains from Wuhan, China. Within weeks, it would have become the only strain that was prevalent in some countries, according to the report.
Experts do not know why it has become more contagious.
The coronavirus, known to scientists as SARS-CoV-2, has infected more than 3.5 million people worldwide and has caused more than 250,000 deaths since its discovery at the end of last year in Wuhan in China.