The D614G mutation is linked with increased viral transmission of COVID-19

Research reports from the journal “Cell” suggest that a specific change in the coronavirus genome previously associated with increased viral transmission and the spread of COVID-19 is more infectious in cell culture.  The variant makes a small but effective change in the virus’s ‘Spike’ protein, which the virus uses to enter human cells. A  theoretical biologist, Bette Korber from Los Alamos National Laboratory and the lead author of the study, noted, “The D614G” variant first came to our attention in early April. The geographic information from samples from the GISAID COVID-19 viral sequence database enabled tracking of this highly recurrent pattern, a shift in the viral population from the original form to the D614G variant. This occurred at every geographic level: country, sub-country, county, and city. Two independent lines of experimental evidence that support these results are included here. These additional experiments at Duke University showed that the D614G change increases the virus’s infectivity in the laboratory. These new experiments, as well as more extensive sequence, clinical data and improved statistical models, are presented in the paper in the journal “Cell”. More in vivo work remains to be done to determine the full implications of the change. Research partners from Los Alamos National Laboratory, Duke University, and the University of Sheffield initially published work on this analysis on the bioRxiv site in an April 2020 preprint. That work also included observations of COVID-19 patients from Sheffield that suggested an association of the D614G variant with higher viral loads in the upper respiratory tract.