Global COVID-19 cases surpass 8 million

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More than 8 million people worldwide have been infected with the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, according to the latest tally from Johns Hopkins University.

More than 436,400 people worldwide have died from COVID-19, the lung disease caused by the virus, or complications caused by the disease, data released early Tuesday showed.

The death toll in the U.S., the country worst-affected by the pandemic, surpassed 116,000. The U.S. also has the most infections with 2.1 million confirmed cases.

Brazil has the second-highest global tally with around 888,270 infections, according to the Johns Hopkins’ figures. Russia comes in third with more than 536,480 confirmed cases.

Scientists estimate that the U.S. may face tens of thousands more deaths by autumn. Researchers at the IHME Institute at the University of Washington in Seattle are now assuming in their projection that 200,000 deaths could be exceeded by Oct. 1.

The virus originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December. On March 11, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a global pandemic.

Mutating virus

A genetic mutation in the coronavirus that significantly increases its ability to infect cells may explain why outbreaks in northern Italy and New York were larger than ones seen earlier in the pandemic.

Scientists at Scripps Research in Florida say the mutated virus was seen infrequently in March, but by April accounted for some 65% of cases submitted from around the world to the GenBank database run by the National Institutes of Health.

The mutation, designated D614G, increased the number of “spikes” the virus uses to bind to and break into cells and made them more stable, researchers found in the study undergoing peer review. In test-tube experiments, the mutated virus was roughly nine times more efficient at breaking into cells and infecting them.