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Coronavirus Mutation May Have Made It More Contagious

Coronavirus Mutation May Have Made It More Contagious

The number of virus strains present in each zip code in Houston during the second wave of COVID-19 cases in summer 2020. Number of strains is represented by a spectrum of colors from blue (0 strains) to red (50 strains). Credit: Houston Methodist/University of Texas at Austin.

A study involving more than 5,000 COVID-19 patients in Houston finds that the virus that causes the disease is accumulating genetic mutations, one of which may have made it more contagious. According to the paper published in the peer-reviewed journal mBIO, that mutation, called D614G, is located in the spike protein that pries open our cells for viral entry. It's the largest peer-reviewed study of SARS-CoV-2 genome sequences in one metropolitan region of the U.S. to date.

Curbing COVID-19 Hospitalizations Requires Attention to Construction Workers

Curbing COVID-19 Hospitalizations Requires Attention to Construction Workers

Construction workers have a much higher risk of becoming hospitalized with the novel coronavirus than non-construction workers, according to a new study from researchers with The University of Texas at Austin COVID-19 Modeling Consortium.

Is Coronavirus Mutating Amid its Rapid U.S. Spread?

Is Coronavirus Mutating Amid its Rapid U.S. Spread?

A new study, currently awaiting peer review and involving more than 5,000 COVID-19 patients in Houston, finds that the virus that causes the disease is accumulating genetic mutations, one of which may have made it more contagious. According to the paper posted this week to the preprint server medRxiv, that mutation, called D614G, was also implicated in an earlier study in the UK in possibly making the virus easier to spread. The Washington Post was among several outlets reporting the findings this week.

Antibody Test Developed for COVID-19 That is Sensitive, Specific and Scalable

Antibody Test Developed for COVID-19 That is Sensitive, Specific and Scalable

An antibody test for the virus that causes COVID-19, developed by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin in collaboration with Houston Methodist and other institutions, is more accurate and can handle a much larger number of donor samples at lower overall cost than standard antibody tests currently in use. In the near term, the test can be used to accurately identify the best donors for convalescent plasma therapy and measure how well candidate vaccines and other therapies elicit an immune response.

UT Austin Will Test More Than 5,000 a Week for COVID-19

UT Austin Will Test More Than 5,000 a Week for COVID-19

Samples are loaded into a liquid handling robot at the High Throughput Testing Core (HTTC) on campus. Photo by Vivian Abagiu.

When the novel coronavirus began spreading across the United States this spring, The University of Texas at Austin quickly purchased three state-of-the-art robots and assembled additional equipment capable of processing hundreds of COVID-19 test samples every day.

Ask the COVID-19 Experts (Audio)

Ask the COVID-19 Experts (Audio)

We asked you, dear listeners, to send us your most burning questions about COVID-19. And you didn't disappoint. You asked: When will it be safe for my 12-week-old baby to meet her grandparents? Can you catch it twice? Is the virus mutating and will that make it harder to develop vaccines? In today's episode, our three experts get to the bottom of these questions, and more.

Some Bacteria Sacrifice Themselves to Protect their Brethren from Antibiotics

Some Bacteria Sacrifice Themselves to Protect their Brethren from Antibiotics

Scientists at The University of Texas at Austin have discovered how some cells within a bacterial swarm will sacrifice themselves so that other cells in the swarm have a better chance of surviving onslaught by antibiotics, in a discovery important for efforts to address antibiotic resistance.

Locking Down Shape-Shifting Spike Protein Aids Development of COVID-19 Vaccine

Locking Down Shape-Shifting Spike Protein Aids Development of COVID-19 Vaccine

An engineered protein developed by UT Austin researchers and their colleagues is a key element of COVID-19 vaccines currently in human trials by Moderna, Novavax, Pfizer-BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson.

The experimental vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 that was the first to enter human trials in the United States has been shown to elicit neutralizing antibodies and a helpful T-cell response with the aid of a carefully engineered spike protein that mimics the infection-spreading part of the virus.

COVID-19 Vaccine Innovation Could Dramatically Speed Up Worldwide Production

COVID-19 Vaccine Innovation Could Dramatically Speed Up Worldwide Production

Jason S. McLellan, associate professor of molecular biosciences, left, and graduate student Daniel Wrapp, right, work in the McLellan Lab at The University of Texas at Austin Monday Feb. 17, 2020.

Responding to a need to quickly develop billions of doses of lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines, a scientific team at The University of Texas at Austin has successfully redesigned a key protein from the coronavirus, and the modification could enable much faster and more stable production of vaccines worldwide.

COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate with UT Ties Arrived Quickly After Years in the Making

COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate with UT Ties Arrived Quickly After Years in the Making

From left: Jason S. McLellan, associate professor of molecular biosciences, Daniel Wrapp, graduate student, and Nianshuang Wang, research associate, pose for a photo in the McLellan Lab at The University of Texas at Austin Monday Feb. 17, 2020. Credit: Vivian Abagiu.

When the first COVID-19 vaccine trial in the U.S. began on March 16, history was being made. Never before had a potential vaccine been developed and produced for human trials so quickly—just 66 days since scientists published the genome sequence of the virus that causes the disease. After news that the early vaccine's trial yielded promising results, it's proceeding to the final phase of human trials along with others, also moving quickly. This blindingly fast effort was only possible because a group of scientists and their partners in industry had already invested years in laying the groundwork.