Studies Say COVID-19 Most Likely to Mutate- What That Means For A Vaccine?
Now that the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 has effectively spread all around the world, there are new predictions that the virus is likely to mutate. The phase of mutation is a part of the virus’s life cycle. However, such shifts and changes aren’t necessarily a big deal.
Since the new coronavirus is an RNA virus which is a collection of genetic material packed in a shell of protein they are more prone to changes and mutations. RNA viruses like measles and the flu mutate as well. RNA viruses are different from DNA viruses like smallpox, herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV) in this aspect.
1All viruses mutate
In late February, researchers wrote in a report published in Nature Microbiology: “Mutation. The word naturally conjures fears of unexpected and freakish changes. Ill-informed discussions of mutations thrive during virus outbreaks”. They explained that this similarity has been seen with the new SARS-CoV-2 as well.
Mutation is a common phase in the life cycle of all viruses with most of the changes and shifts not being a big deal. Sometimes, these mutations can actually weaken the virus. But, mostly, the changes are so slight, that there isn’t any noticeable difference in the disease’s transmission. Nor will this have any huge impact on the fatality rates.
2Even the new coronavirus is slowly mutating
The new coronavirus which causes COVID-19 is an RNA virus. RNA viruses are made up of genetic material encased in a protein shell. When an RNA virus makes contact with its host, its starts duplicating so that it can infect other cells. Unlike DNA viruses, RNA viruses are prone to changes and mutations.
Dr. Mark Schleiss, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and investigator with the Institute for Molecular Virology at the University of Minnesota said: “In the world of RNA viruses, change is the norm. We expect RNA viruses to change frequently. That’s just their nature”.
3Over the past few months SARS-CoV-2 has also been mutating
COVID-19 has been mutating at a very slow pace over the past few months. But, it has been predicted that once it completes its mutation it won’t be too different from the original. Dr. John Rose, a senior research scientist in the department of pathology at Yale Medicine, involved in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine said: “The sequences of the original isolates from China are very close to those in viruses circulating in the U.S. and the rest of the world”.