D614G, a new strain of nCoV that is thought to spread much more strongly than the original strain in Wuhan, is present in many Southeast Asian countries.

Malaysia discovered D614G, the strain nCoV that had previously appeared in other parts of the world, in an outbreak of 45 cases originating from a person returning from India and violating a quarantine order.


Passengers with masks lined up waiting for the bus in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on August 11 Photo: Reuters

In a Facebook post on Aug. 16, Malaysia's general health director Noor Hisham Abdullah said the strain D614G was "10 times more likely to spread to other individuals", adding that cases of "superinfection"

Philippine Deputy Health Minister Maria Rosario Vergeire on August 17 also mentioned the higher infectiousness of the D614G, but said they "still do not have enough solid evidence" to confirm this.

D614G, also known as the G mutation, is a strain of nCoV discovered in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.

The first strain, called the S mutation, appeared earlier this year, while the G variant began to be detected sporadically in mid-January.

Analyzes show that D614G strain currently exists in more than 70% of confirmed nCoV infections worldwide, accounting for nearly 100% in Europe.

Gavin Smith, a professor of infectious diseases in Singapore, says all viruses make copies of themselves in the process of spreading.

In a study published in the Cell journal last month, Dr. Bette Korber, a biologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in the US, and her team discovered the rare D614G outside of Europe earlier this month.

"Around the world, despite the pandemic in localities with many cases of original nCoV infection, as soon as the D614G strain enters a region, they will dominate," said Dr. Korber in the post.

Her research showed that the mutation occurred in the prickly protein on the surface of the nCoV, the structure that helps the virus to enter human cells.

Korber's team also found that D614G-infected patients carried more copies of nCoV than those infected with the D614 strain, possibly the reason it spread more easily.

D614G is 10 times more infectious than the original nCoV strain because its protein spikes are less broken, according to another June study by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute in the US.

However, this study has not been evaluated by other experts.

In terms of mortality, Dr. Korber's study found that D614G was not more dangerous than other strains, adding that hospitalization rates were more dependent on factors such as age and sex.

Professor Smith also said that there is no evidence that D614G is "more deadly", and explains that the strain is simply dominated by it having entered countries that do not have good pandemic control.

Dr. Sebastian Maurer-Stroh, associate executive director of research at the Singapore Institute of Bioinformatics, said the D614G was likely transmitted by tourists into the country, but preventive measures helped prevent the spread.

Professor Smith assessed there is no reason to worry about the spread of D614G in Singapore, thanks to government-imposed control measures, adding that a vaccine developed to prevent nCoV will still be effective.

"This mutant is nothing, as long as people continue to adhere to preventive measures," he said, adding that the rate of the virus doesn't just depend on its genetic makeup,

"Even though it is the world's most infectious virus, it won't spread if the infected person stays at home. However, if it passes on someone who likes to go out and meet friends, the rate of infection will increase"