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Foreign Experts: Msia’s New Virus Strain Is Not 10X More Infectious

Foreign Experts: Msia’s New Virus Strain Is Not 10X More Infectious

Either way, the current SOPs are still our best bet to keep us from getting infected.

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Medical experts in Singapore are refuting Malaysia’s Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah statement that the mutated version of the Covid-19 virus – D614G – is ten times more infectious than its original counterpart.

Additionally, they said that the strain, which has already been detected in Singapore and the Philippines, will not have an impact on vaccine development.

Recently, Dr Noor Hisham shared a few details about D614G through a Facebook post. He explained that the mutated strain, detected in Malaysia from clusters that arose from imported cases, is ten times more infectious.

He added that due to its mutation, the Covid-19 vaccines in development might be ineffective against D614G, urging Malaysians to continue adhering to the health precautions advised by the government.

Keputusan terkini baru diterima dari makmal Institut Penyelidikan Perubatan (IMR): seperti disyaki mutasi jenis D614G…

Posted by Noor Hisham Abdullah on Saturday, 15 August 2020

Speaking to The Straits Times, Duke-NUS Medical School Emerging Infectious Diseases programme director Professor Wang Linfa said that while this variant is genetically more fit, there is no scientific data proving that D614G is more transmissible, let alone ten times more infectious.

Meanwhile, his programme deputy, Professor Ooi Eng Eong said he does not believe such a mutation would impact the effectiveness of vaccines currently being produced.

This mutation would certainly not impact vaccine efficacy since vaccines would generate antibodies that bind to many different parts of the virus spike protein and not just be limited to the site of mutation.

Professor Ooi Eng Eong via The Straits Times
Infographic on D614G. (Credit: The Star)

Also speaking to The Straits Times, NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health Infectious Diseases Specialist, and Epidemiologist Associate Professor Hsu Liyang highlighted that D614G is widely spread, with thousands of infections in Singapore likely due to it.

Singapore sequences only a fraction of virus samples from its patients and has already found more than 100 samples with this mutation between February and July.

It is unsurprising to find the D614G in the Philippines, given how widely spread it is.

Associate Professor Hsu Liyang via The Straits Times
Graph showing the global prevalence of D614G (a.k.a G614) compared to it’s earlier counterpart. (Credit: Medium)

Deputy Executive Director for Research at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research’s (A*Star) Bioinformatics Institute, Dr Sebastian Maurer-Stroh, explained that mutations are natural in the evolution of viruses.

He said that currently, worldwide, there are three “G” mutations of the Covid-19 virus, including D614G, which have a “fitness advantage”. These three strains have grown from 0% of infections in January 2020, to 95% of infections in July.

Be that as it may, Dr Sebastian believes there’s no need for the public to panic.

Since this variant has been circulating globally, it can be expected to be seen in any country, and every country with active surveillance has seen it already, especially related to import from travellers.

Dr Sebastian Maurer-Stroh via The Straits Times

He foresees that the virus will continue mutating, noting that even now there were already six new groupings. 

He said that mutations don’t necessarily mean increased virulence, but can also result in milder or asymptomatic infections which can result in longer detection periods.

Diagram of D614G. (Credit: BBC)

Academy of Medicine’s Chapter of Infectious Disease Physicians chairman, Dr Asok Kurup, said there had been no clinical impact from the mutation.

However, he added that if any mutations of the virus are more infectious, the current safety precautions, such as wearing masks in public and social distancing will become even more critical.

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