A new study has sparked fears that the coronavirus has mutated to become more contagious, but experts say there is no evidence these changes make it any more dangerous or transmissible than it already is.
“Viruses mutate all the time, [and] most mutations have no significance even if they spread,” said Adriana Heguy, director of the Genome Technology Center at New York University, who was not involved with the research.
The study was posted on the preprint server bioRxiv on April 30. Preprints are studies that have not undergone the rigorous peer-review process required for publication in medical or scientific journals. In the rush to share new research on COVID-19, many scientists have been sharing their work online before undergoing the full review process.
The authors, who included researchers from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, analyzed the genetic sequences of samples of the virus gathered worldwide, zeroing in on a mutation called D614G.
“We were concerned that if the D614G mutation can increase transmissibility,” the study authors wrote, “it might also impact severity of disease.”
The corresponding author at the Los Alamos National Laboratory did not respond to an interview request from NBC News.