Can mutations by the coronavirus render the possible vaccine ineffective?
Worldwide, the hope of returning to the days before the coronavirus epidemic has been linked to the vaccine to be found. The Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Epidemics, USA. Officials like Anthony Fauci describe the vaccine as “the real weapon.”
But how successful can a vaccine that could be developed against coronavirus be?
The answer to that question depends on how the virus mutates.
According to the New York Times, in the most general sense, mutations that the virus can undergo can result in two scenarios.
Scenario 1: Coronavirus cannot overcome vaccination
A successful vaccine can stop the virus. But the virus does not have mutations that can overwhelm the vaccine. In this sense, scientists follow:
Like all viruses, coronavirus mutates as it passes from person to person. The” mutation ” is actually just a change in the genetic code of the virus. Most mutations don’t change the way the virus works.
Viruses enter a cell, take over the cell mechanism, and use it to copy itself many times.
Sometimes small errors, “mutations”, can occur during this copying process. Then, as the virus spreads from cell to cell and from person to person, these errors accumulate over time.
Vaccines stick to the virus in a very specific way and protect people against diseases by encouraging the body to produce antibodies that neutralize the virus. Scientists are also tracking whether mutations can affect this interaction. If it does not, there is hope that the need for constant updating of the vaccine will disappear.
In fact, the same process has happened in the most effective vaccines we have. That includes the measles vaccine.
“Measles is mutating as fast as flu viruses and coronavirus, but the vaccine found in 1950 still works today,” says biologist Trevor Bedford of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.
The measles virus uses certain proteins to enter a cell, but none of these proteins can mutate without breaking.
The vaccine targets these parts, so any mutations that could overwhelm the vaccine mean the virus cannot infect other cells.
So, in other words, the vaccine corners the virus.
Scenario 2: mutations make vaccines more ineffective over time
What if coronavirus, like measles, can’t be cornered? If the virus mutates in a way that prevents antibodies from sticking, this could make it difficult to find a permanent and universal vaccine.
The antibodies produced by the body in response to an infection or vaccine are effective by sticking to specific points of viruses called antigens.
If random mutations in the virus change the shape of the antigen, this could make the vaccine more ineffective against the virus.
Dr. Bedford explains the situation;
“In many viruses, you first get caught in Type A of the virus, and your immune system learns to recognize the surface protein of that species. But then the virus can mutate in such a way that your antibodies to type A no longer recognize Type B”
That’s what happens with the flu. The antigens of the virus mutate so much that they evolve into other species, and each species needs a slightly different, slightly different vaccine.
Experts are constantly developing new vaccines to target new species. In contrast, vaccines provide only partial protection against the types of flu that spread each year.
If such a picture occurs in coronavirus as well, researchers will have to develop and administer new vaccines.
It also exhibits one of the strangest ways viruses behave. Some viruses are able to react to the immunity that develops in the population they are trying to infect. For example, over time, many people are able to develop immunity to at least some types of flu. Either by fighting the virus or by vaccinating.
But the virus continues to spread.
There is no widespread immunity to a new virus such as coronavirus. The virus encounters very few immune systems that can prevent its spread. So since the virus doesn’t have to change to survive, even if there are mutations that can change their antigens, it’s likely that there are very few and will remain so.
But if people become immune to the prevailing type of virus either by fighting or by vaccinating, that could change. There is a greater likelihood that versions of the virus that can transcend humans ‘ immune systems will spread, and they may also evolve into a new species.
We have to wait and see
Experts know that the coronavirus has mutated.
Thousands of RNA samples taken show that 11 mutations occur widely. But as far as we know, it’s still the same virus that is transmitted to humans worldwide. Molecular biologist Peter Thielen from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab says there is still only one type of virus.
Only one of these mutations affects “thorn-like proteins” that cause the virus to infect cells in the throat and lungs.
The attempt to produce antibodies that block proteins similar to this thorn is central to many vaccine-finding attempts.
The spike-like protein has changed little by now, and some experts see it as a sign that the virus cannot overprotect itself and retain its ability to infect.
There is still a lot we do not know about the virus. We still do not know if the people caught still develop immunity to the virus, and if so, how long it will take.
“It is still not clear how these mutations in the genetics of the virus will affect measures such as vaccines,” says Thielen.