DALLAS (NEXSTAR) — Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, warned Thursday a new COVID-19 mutation may make the virus replicate more easily.
“It does look like a particular mutation may make the virus more transmissible,” Fauci said.
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.
Fauci noted there’s no confirmation on whether a patient would fare better battling this new mutation.
This follows news the U.S. hit its highest daily count of coronavirus cases with more than 50,000 on Wednesday.
Earlier this week, Dr. Fauci told senators the U.S. is “going in the wrong direction” and some regions are putting the entire country at risk. Fauci added he “would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around.”
“I am very concerned,” he told a Tuesday hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee.
Infections are rising rapidly mostly in parts of the West and South, and Fauci and other public health experts said Americans everywhere will have to start following key recommendations if they want to get back to more normal activities like going to school.
“We’ve got to get the message out that we are all in this together,” by wearing masks in public and keeping out of crowds, said Fauci, infectious disease chief at the National Institutes of Health.
Lawmakers pressed for what Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the committee’s top Democrat, called a national vaccine plan — to be sure the race for the COVID-19 vaccine ends with shots that really are safe, truly protect and are available to all Americans who want, one.
“We can’t take for granted this process will be free of political influence,” Murray said. She cited how President Donald Trump promoted a malaria drug as a COVID-19 treatment that ultimately was found to be risky and ineffective.
The Food and Drug Administration released guidelines Tuesday saying any vaccine that wins approval will have to be at 50% more effective than a dummy shot in the final, required testing. That’s less effective than many of today’s vaccines but independent experts say that would be a good start against the virus.
FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said vaccine makers also must test their shots in diverse populations, including minorities, the elderly, pregnant women and those with chronic health problems.
“We will not cut corners in our decision-making,” Hahn told senators.
About 15 vaccine candidates are in various stages of human testing worldwide but the largest studies — including 30,000 people each — needed to prove if a shot really protects are set to begin in July. First up is expected to be a vaccine created by the NIH and Moderna Inc., followed closely by an Oxford University candidate.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report