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Mutated Coronavirus Far More Infectious, Taking Over U.S. and Europe

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COVID-19-causing viral variant taking over in the United States and Europe now carries more functional, cell-binding spikes.

A tiny genetic mutation in the SARS coronavirus 2 variant circulating throughout Europe and the United States significantly increases the virus’ ability to infect cells, lab experiments performed at Scripps Research show.

In this cryogenic electron microscope image of a SARS-CoV-2 spike protein side view, the S1 section of the spike is shown in green and the S2 portion is shown in purple. This unique two-piece system has shown itself to be relatively unstable. A new mutation has appeared in the viral variant most common in New York and Italy that makes this spike both more stable and better able to infect cells. 
Credit: Andrew Ward lab, Scripps Research
 
“Viruses with this mutation were much more infectious than those without the mutation in the cell culture system we used,” says Scripps Research virologist Hyeryun Choe, PhD, senior author of the study.

The mutation had the effect of markedly increasing the number of functional spikes on the viral surface, she adds. Those spikes are what allow the virus to bind to and infect cells.

“The number—or density—of functional spikes on the virus is 4 or 5 times greater due to this mutation,” Choe says.

The spikes give the coronavirus its crown-like appearance and enable it to latch onto target cell receptors called ACE2. The mutation, called D614G, provides greater flexibility to the spike’s “backbone,” explains co-author Michael Farzan, PhD, co-chairman of the Scripps Research Department of Immunology and Microbiology.

More flexible spikes allow newly made viral particles to navigate the journey from producer cell to target cell fully intact, with less tendency to fall apart prematurely, he explains.

“Our data are very clear, the virus becomes much more stable with the mutation,” Choe says.

There has been much debate about why COVID-19 outbreaks in Italy and New York have so quickly overwhelmed health systems, while early outbreaks in places like San Francisco and Washington state proved more readily managed, at least initially. Was it something about those communities and their response, or had the virus somehow changed?

All viruses acquire minute genetic changes as they reproduce and spread. Those changes rarely impact fitness or ability to compete. The SARS-CoV-2 variant that circulated in the earliest regional outbreaks lacked the D614G mutation now dominating in much of the world.

But was that because of the so-called “founder effect,” seen when a small number of variants fan out into a wide population, by chance? Choe and Farzan believe their biochemical experiments settle the question.

“There have been at least a dozen scientific papers talking about the predominance of this mutation,” Farzan says. “Are we just seeing a ‘founder effect?’ Our data nails it. It is not the founder effect.”

Choe and Farzan’s paper is titled “The D614G mutation in the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein reduces S1 shedding and increases infectivity.” Now undergoing peer review, it is being posted prior to publication to the pre-print site bioRxiv, and released early, amid news reports of its findings.

Choe and Farzan note that their research was performed using harmless viruses engineered to produce key coronavirus proteins. Whether the changes they observed also translate to increased transmissibility in the real world requires additional epidemiological studies, they note.

Encouragingly, the duo found that immune factors from the serum of infected people work equally well against engineered viruses both with and without the D614G mutation. That’s a hopeful sign that vaccine candidates in development will work against variants with or without that mutation, Choe says.

Choe and Farzan have studied coronaviruses for nearly 20 years, since the first outbreak of SARS, a similar virus. They were the first to discover in 2003 that SARS bound to the ACE2 receptor on cells. Others’ experiments have shown the SARS-CoV-2 virus binds the same ACE2 receptor.

But Farzan and Choe note a key structural difference between spike proteins on the first SARS virus and this new pandemic strain. With both, under an electron microscope, the spike has tripod shape, with its three segments bound together at a backbone-like scaffold. But SARS-CoV-2 is different. Its tripod is divided in two discreet segments, S1 and S2.

Initially, this unusual feature produced unstable spikes, Farzan says. Only about a quarter of the hundreds of spikes on each SARS-CoV-2 virus maintain the structure they need to successfully infect a target cell. With the mutation, the tripod breaks much less frequently, meaning more of its spikes are fully functional, he says.

The addition of the D614G mutation means that the amino acid at that location is switched from aspartic acid to glycine. That renders it more bendable, Farzan says. Evidence of its success can be seen in the sequenced strains that scientists globally are contributing to databases including GenBank, the duo reports. In February, no sequences deposited to the GenBank database showed the D614G mutation. But by March, it appeared in 1 out of 4 samples. In May, it appeared in 70 percent of samples, Farzan says.

“Over time, it has figured out how to hold on better and not fall apart until it needs to,” Farzan says. “The virus has, under selection pressure, made itself more stable.”

It is still unknown whether this small mutation affects the severity of symptoms of infected people, or increases mortality, the scientists say. While ICU data from New York and elsewhere reports a preponderance of the new D614G variant, much more data, ideally under controlled studies, are needed, Choe says.

How do scientists create vaccines and drugs against a virus that simply didn’t exist months ago? That’s the challenge that virologist Michael Farzan, PhD, is facing head on—along with his team on the Jupiter, Florida, campus of Scripps Research. In this Front Row lecture, Farzan, a professor and co-chair of the Department of Immunology and Microbiology, shares his early findings on efforts to develop a safe and effective vaccine that triggers antibodies against the novel coronavirus.

Credit: Scripps Research

In addition to senior authors Choe and Farzan, the authors include first authors Lizhou Zhang, Cody Jackson and Huihui Mou, plus co-authors Amrita Ojha, Erumbi Rangarajan and Tina Izard, all of Scripps Research.

The work was supported by the National Institutes of Health through an administrative supplement to RO1 AI129868 for coronavirus research.  Access the full study

Up to 45 percent of SARS-CoV-2 Infections May be Asymptomatic, New Analysis Finds
An extraordinary percentage of people infected by the virus behind the ongoing deadly COVID-19 pandemic—up to 45 percent—are people who never show symptoms of the disease, according to the results of a Scripps Research analysis of public datasets on asymptomatic infections.


Credit: Scripps Research

Contacts and sources:
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Total 12 comments
  • Fake News = The False Prophet

    A Second Wave and Vaccination Push?

    A tiny genetic mutation in the SARS coronavirus 2 variant circulating throughout Europe and the United States significantly increases the virus’ ability to infect cells, lab experiments performed at Scripps Research show.

    There has been much debate about why COVID-19 outbreaks in Italy and New York have so quickly overwhelmed health systems

    So only a variant in Europe and the USA specifically linked to Italy and New York where figures were mostly grossly distorted.

    Whether that translates to increased transmissibility in the real world is unknown, but vaccine candidates in development will work against variants with or without that mutation. Also unknown whether this small mutation affects the severity of symptoms of infected people, or increases mortality.

    Choe and Farzan have studied coronaviruses for nearly 20 years. But want to develop vaccines as oppose to mentioning Hydroxychloroquine.

    Next-generation vaccines
    LA JOLLA, CA – The Scripps Consortium for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Development (CHAVD), an international collaboration led by Scripps Research, has received a $129 million award from the National Institutes of Health to advance next-generation vaccines designed to coax the immune system into producing antibodies capable of disarming numerous strains of HIV.

    Money problems
    Kay, who is president, and Schultz, who is chief executive, say they’ll restore the institute’s financial health by having scientists focus on rapidly turning discoveries into new drugs and therapies, a field called translational medicine. Such discoveries can be worth millions in royalties and licensing fees.

    Funding – Landenberger Foundation
    Margaret Q Landenberger Research Foundation is a private foundation based in Wilmington, DE that was founded in 1992.

  • Fake News = The False Prophet

    Bottom line: Wouldn’t trust this bunch to make me a cup of tea.

  • Everette

    I’ve got a few questions . I understand from some doctors that viruses are no a living entity . So how the hell does it deside to mutate ? I am desiring I am going to grow me a set of wings ! Boom ! I now can fly ! If this set of chemical gue changes it is because the lab has changed up some of its chemical substances . I also understand some of the viruses have had H1N1 , SARS and HIV added to it . Funny thing we don’t have records of this kind of stuff existing before the 19 century . It seems to have come into existence since science found their way into the labs ! Am I right or wrong ? Cancer has become a great word of terror . But this stuff was not heard of before vaccines . I understand the vaccines now contain nalgese , a cancer enzyme that helps start cancer in a well patient . Robert F Kennedy just proved that vaccines were never tested and contained things like aluminum , mercury , formyahide , baby aborted fetus material and pig urine . All these substances are toxic to human bodies . Yet Bill Gates a bastard of the devil walks planet earth instead of resting in a coffin 6 ft under , and is still shooting up millions with his untested toxic cocktail in the name of depopulation and sterilization . Why??? Why does those we elected allow him to kill and mame millions ? Are they evil too ? Now they want to vaccinate everyone with a vaccine that sterilizes the masses , puts nano bots within the masses , changes everyone’s DNA so they become a genetic altered human or beast and also change everyone’s RNA so that their immune system begins operating in GOD only know what kind of condition . Maybe it will attack its self or totally turn off its power to fight anything ! This bastards has no doctors degree , no medical or science degree and yet he is deemed as some kind of god . He blankly brags how he is going to depopulated the earth and children . Damn , have we become blind that we can’t see or deaf that we can’t hear what this bastard is doing or saying ? He is no god !!! He is a reptilian bastard of lucifer the devil , the serpent , the dragon , the satan ! It’s time to put this bastard in jail and try him for crimes against humanity ! Then cut off his head for the murders and maming of innocent children and grown ups . This man is a murderer and needs to pay the price for his sins and crimes ! It would be different if he was trying to help mankind and made mistakes . But this bastard brags what he is doing and going to do , This is premeditated murder ! Many Videos of proofs and brags before he does the evil deed . Just like his 2006 patented Covid 19 virus , that Fouchi helped him spread around the world commissioning Wuhan labs with 3.7 million to make viles of and spread it thru out the world . Fouchi needs to join Billy boy Gates and face the death penalty for the murders they both committed against humanity ! I bet if you traced their origins you would find they come from natzi extreme groups ! They are pure evil !!! And this crap needs to stop now , not later ! Something else I am sick of , is when they test someone for the corona cold virus instead of the patented Bill Gates Covid 19 virus . The test kits are coming from China , many with the viruses already on the swabs as some have reported . Stop cramming those Covid swabs up your nose give you the virus and the waring of mask that deprive you of 20% of your oxygen supply which creates brain depravity and body lack of power weakinging your immune system and also creates pools of water vapor in ones lungs from rebreathing in your own vapors that were supposed to be expelled , setting everyone up for bacterial pneumonia and mercer from the mask rubbing the skin off your face as you adjust it and heat exhaustion from breathing in your own carbon dioxide which could cause one to pass out . In the beginning they advised everyone against waring the mask because it could cause so many problems . Now it is a must ! They need the numbers up so they can continue this lie ! So ware those masks that will help make you sick as the heat of summer becomes more prominant . Bill Gates virus did not do the deed he wanted it to do . So now they are back in the labs trying to adjust it so their murder weapon will get the deed done ! Why are the athorities not going into the labs and exposing these bastards ? Bill was run out of North Carolina for playing with the killer virus . So he moved into Australia . They too ran him out . So finally he found Wuhan labs that would help him finalize his murder weapon and distribute it so his prophecy of 1997 would not be wrong in a lung virus coming to depopulate the earth , because it would be over populated in 2020 . So he help full fill his own prophecy and mutated a virus with H1N1 , SARS and HIV . This snake and the others working with it needs their heads removed !

    • zak1955

      Believe it or not folks, you better pay attention to what you just read! It is a proven fact! You can verify these things yourself by looking at his patients, reading news articles from around the globe, and doing your own research! And even with proof, nobody is doing anything to stop it! Beware of what you are allowing to happen while you sit in lockdown in your homes! Sadly this is not science fiction, but provable science fact! These terrible evil people have plans of their own, and i’m here to tell you that it doesn’t include you! Voting for this person or that person isn’t going to stop anything! Only you can make the change! Find a group of like minded people and join or support them! Form your own group. Start by researching the facts yourself and in your groups. Why do think your really in lockdown? To prevent a repeat of what our Country’s founding citizens had to do to take back their Country from these wicked kinds of people in the pioneer days! At least they could see the truth in front of them and were still armed and able to rise up and defeat the bad guys since they weren’t brainwashed by FAKE news, sprayed by planes 24/7 nor forced to drink fluoridated city water, and then locked in their homes like us! Nothing will be going back to what you think was normal ever again! Who in the world can’t see that this is true? Even with proof! Use your eyes! Look around! Ask questions! Do research! At least try to save your own life and freedoms! (A rolling stone gathers no moss) Are you a moss man? Are you just going to sit in your home and do nothing until it’s too late? Folks, this is a damn serious situation! The bad guys are pretty much trying to take over the whole planet with endless money to make it their world! I just can’t see how you let this go on! What’s the matter with everyone? You can see it, but don’t act! WHY?

      • zak1955

        By the way, does anyone remember Paul Revere? Or what he and true Americans had to do (gave their lives) so you can now enjoy those freedoms? What if there had never been a Paul Revere, (like now) and everyone just sat in their homes thinking their vote will really change anything?

  • 2QIK4U

    A second release more like it

  • Josey Wales

    The Treatment For All Viral Infections They Don’t Want You To Know About, Including AIDS/HIV & COVID -19, Why? /health/2020/06/the-treatment-for-all-viral-infections-they-dont-want-you-to-know-about-including-aidshiv-covid-19-why-3028002.html

  • HTLIII

    More likely, we are just experiencing fresh drops of fresh man-made virus which soon loses its virulence to become just another weak corona influenza or common cold virus after just a few weeks. The ‘outbreak’ at the convelescent home near Seattle months ago appears to have been an isolated deposit of fresh lethal man-made virus particles.

  • Fake News = The False Prophet

    Also funded by the NIH.

    That’s the outfit currently under investigation and being drained for foreign influence, one of which is chinese
    187 scientists under the scope receiving foreign funding.

    More on this here: (X22 Report)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqS7BKRRz1U

  • Zeropointenergy

    Scientists have been studying the effects of radiation on the body for over 100 years, so we know quite a bit about how radiation interacts with living tissue. The effect of the human body on mm-wave wireless channels for 5G networks it is my understanding that mmWaves vibrate cells within the living body The effects of radiation on our health

    Our body is made of billions of cells which are arranged to form organs. Approximately one and a half metres of DNA are stored in each cell. DNA undergoes permanent attacks and there a numerous aggressive agents. The following can be mentioned: solvents and pesticides, combustion smoke, viral aggressions, ultraviolet radiation, ionising radiation. All molecules can be affected by radiation, but it is when DNA is impacted that there are the greatest consequences for cellular operation.
    source
    The effects of radiation on our health and 5G PROGRAMMED to KILL ALL LIFE

    you tube!

  • Zeropointenergy

    Question :arrow: The U.S. military agency known as DARPA Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is investing $100 million into so-called “genetic extinction technologies” that could be deployed to exterminate targeted human populations The disclosure of this genetic extinction technology comes on the heels of Natural News blowing the whistle on a global eugenics program to target and exterminate people of African descent asking and the Mutated 5 G Coronavirus seems to being working to do the same thing!

  • Slimey

    Mutated virus. Second spike coming.

    Sorry, too convenient. Pulling out everything to STOP Trump. Trying to paralyze America.

    I don’t believe this. :twisted:

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