Mutations and mergers: how Covid is staying ahead of the game

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Mutations and mergers: how Covid is staying ahead of the game

A single mutation in the spike protein makes the most prevalent variant in SA up to eight times more transmissible, say researchers

Senior science reporter

SARS-CoV-2 is causing havoc on every macro level possible, but it’s doing so on a microscopic level, doing what it can to stay alive and infect host cells in human beings.

Researchers have now made two extraordinary discoveries: the one is that a single mutation (found in the local, British and Brazilian variants) renders it eight times more infectious than the so-called “vanilla variant” that first emerged in Wuhan, China, and the other is that different variants are merging to fight the battle “together”.

According to research published in the journal eLife, a mutation called D614G is a spike protein, which means it changes the way the virus can “break in” to a healthy cell. They found it increased transmissibility up to eightfold and made the virus more resistant to being “cleaved” (or split) by other proteins...

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