In the wake of press dramatically reporting that the number of new cases of the Wuhan coronavirus are “surging,” investigators at a California institution may have made a determination that sheds new light on just how contagious the virus is.

Researchers have been diligently studying the Wuhan coronavirus since it first appeared in China in January. Recently, scientists at The Scripps Research Institute have now ascertained that the strains spreading so quickly in Europe and the U.S. have a mutated protein on the outer surface of the viral cell, making them ten times more infectious than the strain that originally was identified in China.

The mutation does not appear to make the virus any more deadly than it already is, but it does appear to make it significantly more contagious. The original strain in China is dubbed D614, while the one found in the UK, Italy and North America by May is dubbed G614.

The S “spike” protein is found on the surface of the virus and is used to gain entry to cells, something like a key in a lock. But the original strain, D614, often broke off when it was attempting to bind to ACE2 receptors in people’s airways. The mutated version, G614, is less likely to break off, allowing it to more easily make its way into cells.

ACE2 receptors are molecules on the surface of cells found throughout the body, but in particularly high concentrations in the lungs, although they are found in various organs, including the pancreas and testes. ACE2 receptors vary in concentrations and are also linked to high blood pressure.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the go-to-expert when the media wants to dramatize disease findings, addressed this development in a recent interview with the The Journal of the American Medical Association.

He said it is possible this strain carries a higher viral load in the respiratory system, thereby making human transmission more likely.

“The data is showing there’s a single mutation that makes the virus be able to replicate better and maybe have high viral loads,” Fauci said.

“It just seems that the virus replicates better and may be more transmissible,” he continued.

The study, which was released by researchers affiliated with the Sheffield COVID-19 Genomics Group, stated Thursday that the new strain “has become the most prevalent form in the global pandemic.”

“The shift occurred even in local epidemics where the original [strain of the virus] D614 form was well established prior to the introduction of the G614 variant,” the scientists wrote in their abstract, referring to the strain of coronavirus thought to have originated in Wuhan, China.

People tend to be most afraid of the unknown. Given how infectious this virus is, there is a good chance most of us know at least one person who has been infected and survived. This is bad news for the American media, who hoped to ride the pandemic panic wave until November.

In fact, the Los Angeles Times is now complaining that people are losing their fear of the pathogen.

“People are not willing to be governed anymore in that regard,” health officer Dr. Gail Newel said as the county rescinded its beach closure order last week.

This is the problem California officials now face as they deal with a major surge in coronavirus cases tied to business reopenings, social gatherings and other factors, and hospitals are becoming increasingly crowded. As the public has become more accustomed to the pandemic, Californians have seemingly become less afraid of the highly contagious virus, even though it’s no less infectious than it was in the winter.

It appears that Americans are beginning to make data-driven instead of fear-driven decisions regarding their approach to the Wuhan Coronavirus. I am equally sure the media is going to miss its captive audience.

 

 
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