There is research underway that suggests a single mutation affecting a specific amino acid is emerging that allows the virus to replicate better and create a higher viral load, measures that could make it easier to transmit, Fauci said at an online event hosted by the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The news of a change that may hasten the spread of the virus around the world comes as the number of cases continues to surge globally, with more than 10.7 million people infected and 517,000 dead from the disease that was identified just six months ago. Many U.S. states are reconsidering efforts to reopen their economies, while countries in Latin America and elsewhere are getting pummeled with soaring infection levels.
There is some dispute about the findings, which stem from an in vitro examination of the mutations, and it’s not clear whether people who become infected with a newer variation of the pathogen fare worse than those with the original strain, he said.
“It just seems that the virus replicates better and may be more transmissible,” he said. “This is still at the stage of trying to confirm that.”
The United States reported more than 55,000 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, the largest daily increase any country has ever reported, according to a Reuters tally.
Coronavirus cases are rising in 37 out of 50 U.S. states including Florida, which confirmed more than 10,000 new cases on Thursday. That marked the state’s largest daily spike so far and a level that exceeded single-day tallies from any European country at the height of the outbreak there.
In a major policy reversal, Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Thursday decreed that face masks must be worn in all counties with over 20 coronavirus cases, billing the measure as a requirement to avoid another economic shutdown.