The spike aspartic acid-614 to glycine (D614G) substitution is prevalent in global severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) strains, but its effects on viral pathogenesis and transmissibility remain unclear. We engineered a SARS-CoV-2 variant containing this substitution. The variant exhibits more efficient infection, replication, and competitive fitness in primary human airway epithelial cells but maintains similar morphology and in vitro neutralization properties, compared with the ancestral wild-type virus. Infection of human angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) transgenic mice and Syrian hamsters with both viruses resulted in similar viral titers in respiratory tissues and pulmonary disease. However, the D614G variant transmits significantly faster and displayed increased competitive fitness than the wild-type virus in hamsters. These data show that the D614G substitution enhances SARS-CoV-2 infectivity, competitive fitness, and transmission in primary human cells and animal models.
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