Scientists around the world are trying to unravel the many mysteries of SARS-CoV-2, ranging from the broad-strokes (what was so special about this virus that it succeeded in going global where many others have failed) to the intensely specific (how mutations impact the virus's ability to bind to the human ACE2 receptor). In recent days, much ink has been spilled about a mutation found in 70% of the hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 genetic samples compiled in a shared open scientific database.
Just a day after Dr. Fauci repeated his reassurances that the US could have a working coronavirus vaccine by January, the doctor warned during an interview on Thursday that an unforeseeable mutation could create serious problems for humanity, such as by making the virus even more infectious.
After explaining to the Senate that the US is "going in the wrong direction", Dr. Fauci warned the US may see as many as 100k new COVID-19 cases a day if drastic actions weren't taken. States from California to New York have rolled back their reopening plans.
Asked about the research in an interview published Thursday, Dr. Fauci said it appears a mutation has helped enhance the virus's infectious potential.
"It does look like a particular mutation may make the virus more transmissible," Fauci said.
Though he of course cautioned that more research is needed before conclusions are drawn.
During a COVID-19 Q&A with JAMA Network, Fauci added not all scientists are in agreement over the development. He said more research is needed.
"There’s a little dispute about it, but I think the data is showing that there is a single mutation that actually makes the virus be able to replicate better and maybe have high viral loads,” Fauci said.
Infections are rising rapidly across the West and South, and right now, fewer than a dozen are still seeing cases decline, as even places like New York have seen numbers plateau.
But when the economy tanks because we don't have a vaccine by New Year's Eve, will critics cite these comments as evidence that Fauci has been peddling false hope?