'Urgent concern': Mutant strain of virus spreading


About half the COVID-19 cases in Australia studied by the country's national science agency have reportedly been found to be a mutant strain of the virus.

Labelled an "urgent concern" by international researchers, about two-thirds of cases in hard-hit countries have been found to have the mutation, The Weekend Australian has revealed.

Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists in the US this week published a paper that documented 14 mutations in the coronavirus spike protein that attaches itself to human cells, identifying one of the spike mutations - known as D614G - as being of "urgent ­concern", the newspaper reports.

According to the experts, the ­mutation spike D614G began spreading in Europe in early February, and quickly became the dominant form of SARS-CoV-2 when it was introduced to new ­regions.

The team, which included scientists from Duke University in North Carolina and the University of Sheffield in England, said the concern around the readily mutating virus is that any vaccine developed for the current dominant strain may not be effective on it.

Despite the prevalence of the apparent new strain of the coronavirus in all states nationwide, the CSIRO does not believe it is necessarily more contagious, as speculated by international scientists.