New mutated strain of coronavirus spreads faster but may not be more severe, Baylor College of Medicine doctor says

HOUSTON – Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine said a new mutated strain of coronavirus may spread more easily but does not appear to be any more severe.

It is not abnormal to see viral strains evolve, said Dr. Pedro Piedra, a professor in molecular virology and microbiology at BCM.

“This is not unique to SARS-CoV2,” Piedra said. “This is actually part of what we see with many outbreaks.”

However, the new dominant strain appears to be more transmissible.

“If you look at the lab data, it suggests that it’s about three to four times as efficient in its ability to infect,” said Piedra.

With researchers already racing the clock to find a COVID-19 vaccine, could a mutation set them back? Piedra said no.

“Antibodies will be able to effectively neutralize the virus whether it contains the mutation or not,” said Piedra.

Over time, humans will adapt to the evolving SARS-CoV2 as herd immunity grows. Until then, Piedra said it’s important everyone continue to wear face coverings, maintain a safe distance and limit social interactions.

“We’re the ones who have a social obligation to put a damper on the spread of this virus. Otherwise, it will just stay and cause a lot of chaos,” said Piedra.