Study: In-vitro Tests Suggest the New York Covid-19 Strain is More Infectious

New York
New York. By Hromoslav (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Scientist analysing a variant strain of Covid prevalent in New York and Italy have claimed that the mutation they identified likely makes the NY and Italian virus more contagious.

The researchers are not claiming the new variant is more deadly, but the increased ease with which the New York strain appears to spread might explain part of the reason why New York has had such a hard time containing their outbreak.

Mutated coronavirus shows significant boost in infectivity

COVID-19-causing viral variant taking over in the United States and Europe now carries more functional, cell-binding spikes.

June 12, 2020

JUPITER, FL — A tiny genetic mutation in the SARS coronavirus 2 variant circulating throughout Europe and the United States significantly increases the virus’ ability to infect cells, lab experiments performed at Scripps Research show.

There has been much debate about why COVID-19 outbreaks in Italy and New York have so quickly overwhelmed health systems, while early outbreaks in places like San Francisco and Washington state proved more readily managed, at least initially. Was it something about those communities and their response, or had the virus somehow changed?

Choe and Farzan have studied coronaviruses for nearly 20 years, since the first outbreak of SARS, a similar virus. They were the first to discover in 2003 that SARS bound to the ACE2 receptor on cells. Others’ experiments have shown the SARS-CoV-2 virus binds the same ACE2 receptor.

But Farzan and Choe note a key structural difference between spike proteins on the first SARS virus and this new pandemic strain. With both, under an electron microscope, the spike has tripod shape, with its three segments bound together at a backbone-like scaffold. But SARS-CoV-2 is different. Its tripod is divided in two discreet segments, S1 and S2. 

Initially, this unusual feature produced unstable spikes, Farzan says. Only about a quarter of the hundreds of spikes on each SARS-CoV-2 virus maintain the structure they need to successfully infect a target cell. With the mutation, the tripod breaks much less frequently, meaning more of its spikes are fully functional, he says.

It is still unknown whether this small mutation affects the severity of symptoms of infected people, or increases mortality, the scientists say. While ICU data from New York and elsewhere reports a preponderance of the new D614G variant, much more data, ideally under controlled studies, are needed, Choe says.

Read more:

The study (currently undergoing peer review) is available here.

The variant strain has been active in New York for a while, so this discovery does not represent a deterioration in the current situation.

54 thoughts on “Study: In-vitro Tests Suggest the New York Covid-19 Strain is More Infectious

  1. Recent outbreaks in Wuhan and Beijing did show mostly asymptomatic cases. This could mean that the present spread of the virus in China is by a strain that is not a dangerous one: most people are asymptomatic. The results:
    – Wuhan: about 10 million recent tests (in only some weeks). Result: 300 cases and ALL were asymptomatic
    – Beijing: (yesterday) 4 new cases plus 46 additional cases that were all 46 asymptomatic.


    Italy (Milan) had a direct flight connection with Wuhan where from the beginning a virulent form was found. From Italy the virus spread over Europe and to cities / countries with a lot of Italian contacts all over the World: New York, São Paulo etc.

    Perhaps the isolation efforts for virulent cases so far lead to the eradication of most (all?) virulent cases / strains in China. It could be that the isolation efforts in other parts of the world will show comparable results.

  2. If the virus has become more infectious, as described, it wouldn’t necessarily need to induce a cough or other symptoms to spread. Hence, we might see a greater number of infections but milder disease. Might.

    • That is the rule of thumb in virology. The more infectious viruses are less virulent. This has been clear from the beginning and they all tend to get less virulent over time as they adapt to spreading over creating illness or death.

  3. I would counter-suggest that living in high density situations with poor environmental conditions increases infection rate across the board.

    Well known fact in agriculture.

  4. Long interview but well worth while, with Irish immunologist, expert in antibodies, Dolores Cahill, who is clear that the bad hits noted early in Wuhan, Lombardy and NYC were the result of a ‘flu vaccine contaminated with coronavirus – result being, that those who caught Covid went into body shock. And that given that there is no vaccine yet for SARS (2003) and Covid 19 is closely related, talk of a vaccine for that is nonsense.

    Also clear the lockdown will cause more deaths than it saves, and that Vitamin D and Zinc will keep you healthy

    • Flu vaccines contaminated with coronavirus that cause an enhanced immune response similar to what occurred during a SARS coronavirus vaccine trial is an interesting and plausible idea, but, unfortunately, she has no evidence for her hypothesis.

      • icisil
        June 14, 2020 at 4:03 am

        Cancellation approach in the proposition of Occam’s razor, points out clearly that the main
        and most prevalent point in consideration of the “COVID-19” disease globally, as per the severity and fatality, stands with the massive careless seasonal flu vaccination programs.

        The only way to explain the difference in severity and fatality between the developed rich industrialized world versus the poor and very poor countries in this world of ours.

        The poor countries did not have the “luxury” of really knowing the severity and fatality of the “COVID-19” disease of hospitals.
        Got lucky this time around, same as the most vulnerable group, the babies and the children.

        If ignoring such a problem, next time around there may be a lack of such luck!


      • isn’t that what a hypothesis is, a plausible idea?

        Then, if the idea is interesting enough to enough people, you go from there ….

  5. “Was it something about those communities and their response, or had the virus somehow changed?”

    I bet climatologists are jealous that they can’t blame every little meteorologic peculiarity on mutating CO2 like virologists do with viruses. When the evidence rolls in, though, it becomes obvious that this virus is only generally dangerous, and man’s response to it it is the deadly disease.

  6. In the UK, rather than there being one patient zero, there are now thought to have been hundreds of individuals bringing the disease into the country. New York, being an international city, is also likely to have had a number of different sources of the infection and as such, the likelihood that there is just one, more contagious strain at work there is to all intents zero.

    • and your airlines are whining about quarantining incoming os travellers?
      why the hell they were banned months ago as Aus n NZ did?
      let alone the chunnel and ferries.
      hardly surprising you copped such huge rates and dead.

    • Bloke
      I would expect that a more infectious strain would out-compete the less infection strain(s) and spread faster. If the antibodies produced by those infected were good against all, or even most, strains, then the less infectious strain(s) would soon be in the minority. That is, it would appear that there was only one strain — the dominant one.

  7. So far the most dangerous thing about SARS COV 2 is the insanity surrounding a flu virus. It has been created and is continuing because an irrational fear has been absorbed by the tiny minded fools just about world wide. Governments lies and are never ever your friend.

    • yup
      radio abc in Aus running stories from public..
      selective of course
      about how theyre still going to pretty much stay in iso and intend to do so till a miracle vax is released;-/
      other 30s or so too “scared” to go out ot to the shops etc
      shows how weakminded and gullible we have bred em
      considering our low rates of illness and deaths its even sadder to see just how well the fear factors worked

  8. Political cover.
    Narratives forming up about how government actions saved the world along with excusing government in those areas with higher death rates.

    • Along those lines, the Democrats are hyperventilating about pinning all the blame on the Republicans (Trump) but can’t.. because most of the blame is on themselves.

      If there is a very mild strain going around, it is a benefit in that it is probably better than a vaccine in inducing antibodies for those contracting it, especially in the young. They had a TV shot on our local news of downtown last night and people were socializing and not wearing masks or keeping apart. The disease can run its course through younger, healthier people with minor effect taking them out of the contagion.

    • cedarhill
      June 14, 2020 at 4:40 am

      And the funny thing is that in consideration of the new strong viral strains appearing and thriving in the very most highly impacted areas of this dictated government actions.

      Meaning that such actions did not have any effect whatsoever towards this novel infection disease.
      Nada, zero, zero point zero.


  9. by Eric Worrall

    The researchers are not claiming the new variant is more deadly, but the increased ease with which the New York strain appears to spread might explain part of the reason why New York has had such a hard time containing their outbreak.

    Eric, Eric, Eric, ……. my intelligent reasoning reasons that the “New York (City) strain” only appears to spread faster than other strains …… simply because NYC has/had tens-of-millions of commuters, visitors and suppliers who commute via train, plane, busses into and out of the City all hours of the day and night.
    And a majority of them commute from areas in New Jersey, PA. and Long Island.

  10. Keep thrashing around and torturing the data so you can avoid the real issue – NYC, NY, NJ, MA (BLUE) health care systems stink.

    • There are lots of Chinese in Iran working on numerous projects with direct daily flights from Qom to Wuhan. Plus there’s a Chinese Islamic school in Qom.

  11. I liked the part about “their expected expiry”.

    No more taxpayer subsidies for Windmills and Industrial Solar.

    Let’s see how many they build without subsidies.

  12. “There has been much debate about why COVID-19 outbreaks in Italy and New York have so quickly overwhelmed health systems”

    I haven’t read much about the spread of the the virus in Italy but I have no idea where the authors of the study got their information on NYC’s health care system being overwhelmed. However, I have read that the US Navy ship Comfort, the Javit’s Center, and the Army field hospitals in NYC all shut down having treated very very few patients. I’ve also read that Cuomo screamed for thousands of ventilators that were not needed.

    So, exactly where was the overwhelming?

  13. A friend of mine works at Pfizer. They are in the race to develop a vaccine. According to his insider information, C-19 has mutated 26 times since November. So basically, the virus mutates weekly.

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