According to a report published in the journal eLife, the variant dubbed D614G is believed to be the most dominant in the world. The powerful strain is eight times more transmissible than the one that raised the alarm over a year ago in Wuhan, China.
The authors of the study claimed the new variant has “spread rapidly” and is associated with “increased fatality and higher viral load.”
Researcher Dr Neville Sanjana said the swift surge in infections could correlate to the higher transmission rate.
He said: “In the months since we initially conducted this study, the importance of the D614G mutation has grown: the mutation has reached near universal prevalence and is included in all current variants of concern.
“Confirming that the mutation leads to more transmissibility may help explain, in part, why the virus has spread so rapidly over the past year.”
The D614G variant infects human cells “much more efficiently” than the original infection and has emerged in the UK, South Africa, and Brazil in recent months, researchers said.
The study comes after a physicist claimed the pathogen may have started at a laboratory before spreading to humans.
Dr Roland Wiesendanger, from the University of Hamburg, released a 100-page study in a bid to support the suggestion.
World Health Organisation (WHO) scientists have insisted the theory was “extremely unlikely”.
The Chinese government has refused similar theories that coronavirus could have originated from a lab.
However, Dr Wiesendanger cited safety issues around the facility, authorities’ failure to find an animal host for the virus and “gain-of-function” research taking place at the laboratory in support of his theory.
Speaking to German newspaper ZDF Dr Wiesendanger said: “I am 99.9 percent certain that the coronavirus came from the laboratory.”
Dr Wiesendanger, who admitted his research is centred on “circumstantial evidence”, highlighted that no natural host for coronavirus has yet been discovered.
The researcher suggested samples of a coronavirus called RaTG13 found in bats were taken to the Wuhan facility where they were strengthened before managing to escape.
He also cited pre-existing safety concerns around the Wuhan Institute and the pathogen being targeting specifically human cells.
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