Coronavirus mutation: Scientists study its effects
Researchers in the US and UK have identified hundreds of mutations suffered by the coronavirus that led to Covid-19. But it is not yet known how these mutations can affect the virus’s spread rate or vaccine work.
All viruses mutate. The main question with these mutations is whether there is any change in the transmission of the virus or the severity of the disease it causes.
A preliminary study in the US found that a mutation called D614G became dominant and could increase the rate of transmission of the virus.
But this research has not yet been published and has not been studied by other scientists.
The research, conducted at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, follows the exchange of crown-like protrusions that give the virus its distinctive shape through a database called Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data
The mutation they detected allows the virus to grow faster, but the consequences are not clear yet.
The research team also examined data from coronavirus patients in Sheffield, England, and found that the amount of virus in patients ‘ bodies was greater. But there was no indication that these people remained in hospital longer or were more seriously ill.
‘Mutation is not a bad thing’
Another study by University College London identified 198 mutations that were spreading.
Prof. Francois Balloux said: “Mutation is not a bad thing and there is no indication that SARS-CoV-2 mutates faster or slower than expected.”
“We have not yet detected a change in the rates of transmission or lethality of the virus.”
The University of Glasgow has found that these mutations are not yet at the level to transform the virus into a new species.
There is only one type of virus in circulation, according to the researchers.
Tracking and studying small changes in viruses is also important for Vaccine Development.
An example of this is the flu virus: the virus is mutating so rapidly that it needs to redesign the vaccines every year.
The bulk of the COVID-19 vaccines under development target the protrusions above the virus. The idea is that the body can more easily detect the virus, which it needs to combat by recognizing these protrusions.
However, if these crowns are changing, the effect of vaccines can be reduced.
All this is a theoretical debate right now. Scientists don’t yet know what the change the virus is undergoing means.
Lucy van Dorp s, one of the authors of the study at University College London says analyzing large numbers of virus genomes is “one of the most important things for Vaccine Development.”