What a new Houston Methodist study says about COVID-19 mutation

With concerns that America is starting to see an uptick in COVID-19 cases, we're learning more about how the virus has mutated.

The Houston Methodist researchers study was recently published in mBio, one of the leading journals for the American Society for Microbiology.

We're less than a month away from Thanksgiving, and gatherings could only make it easier for the virus to spread.

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"The virus is still out there in the community, still transmitting person-to-person and as we move into the winter months and it gets cold, people tend to congregate more indoors," said medical director of microbiology at Houston Methodist, Dr. Wesley Long.

On top of that, researchers at Houston Methodist found the virus mutated in such a way that it spreads easier. Researchers studied 5,000 samples from COVID-19 positive patients.

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"This mutation, we think, helps the virus spread more efficiently and that's one of the reasons we think this virus with this mutation has been so successful around the world, especially in Europe and North America," said Long.

Researchers examined the first wave earlier this year and the second wave over the summer. It's not uncommon for viruses to mutate, but Long said it's important to track those mutations.

"The mutations happen by chance and then the question is, does the mutation make the virus more or less able to survive and go on to affect other people?" asked Long.

Researchers continue to examine the virus' makeup and search for mutations that could affect how treatments respond to it.

"Soon we'll have vaccines. It becomes incredibly important to continue to sequence so we can identify if there are any new mutations. They may make the virus less susceptible to certain treatments," he said.

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