Coronavirus mutating, potentially evolving; US Study

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Novel Coronavirus
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A result study result published on a preprint server medRxiv, an internet site distributing unpublished eprints about health sciences reveals that novel coronavirus has had numerous numbers of mutations during its extensive spreading in the US. 

The study which was published by researchers of Houston Methodist Hospital used 5000 genetic sequences of coronavirus for examination but could not provide conclusive evidence that mutation of the virus has made it deadlier or have changed the way they cause COVID-19.

Scientists suggest that similar mutations are quite common in all forms of viruses and are often insignificant.

James Musser, author of the study said that the higher number of infections in the US has provided plenty of opportunities for SARS-Cov2 to change. Researchers from the University of Chicago, Argonne National Laboratory, Weill Cornell Medicine, and the University of Texas at Austin also contributed to the extensive study.

Sharing his opinion on the study, David Morens, a virologist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases stated that we should not over-interpret the “single study”. “Wearing masks, washing our hands, all those things are barriers to transmissibility or contagion, but as the virus becomes more contagious it statistically is better at getting around those barriers,” he added.

Dr. Morens remarked that as more and more people achieve immunity one way or another, the virus will in pressure to bypass the current immunity mechanisms.

“Although we do not know yet, it is well within the realm of possibility that this coronavirus, when our population-level immunity gets high enough, this coronavirus will find a way to get around our immunity. If that happened, we would be in the same situation as with the flu. We will have to chase the virus and as it mutates, we will have to tinker with our vaccine,” he pointed out.

The study reveals that 71 percent of infections in Houston seems to have originated from a mutation that has arrived from China. The virus first populated among rich and old, the second wave which had a virus variation with 99.9 percent prevalence spread among younger people and lower-income areas.