Researchers say that the new type of coronavirus, which affects the whole world, is slowly mutating. So, what does the change in the genetic structure of the virus mean for humans and future vaccinations?
The COVID-19 pandemic, which spread to four corners of the world and paralyzed life after it broke out in Wuhan, a city of 11 million people in China, caused the death of a total of 21,297 people, 80 percent of whom were over 60 years old. And this number is increasing every hour. When it comes out of this chaotic situation, the world remains uncertain.
One of the biggest fears about the new type of coronavirus is mutation, but it seems that we are already afraid. Epidemiologist from Harvard University. Dr. “Is the new coronavirus changing genetically?” Marc Lipsitch said. answered “absolutely yes” to the question. According to the scientist, the main question is whether this mutation is the course of the disease, its infectiousness or its physical effect on humans.
Colorized image of cells from a patient infected with SARS-CoV-2
Professor Dr. Lipsitch says there is no positive or negative reliable evidence of the effects of the coronavirus’s mutation so far. “The coronaviruses, like all other viruses, constantly change small portions of their genetic code,” says the scientist, that we should approach this process cautiously.
“Viruses are mutated as part of their life cycle,” says Ewan Harrison, scientific project manager at COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium, who is watching the epidemic in the UK.
“Like the flu and measles, the coronavirus is an RNA virus. When a virus is transmitted to a person, the genetic sequence of instructions tells how to replicate it when it enters the cell, allowing the virus to spread. The virus makes its own copies and pushes it to other cells in the body. The infectious doses of the virus appear in droplets by cough and others can be inhaled ”
Saying that viruses make mistakes in their genomes when copying themselves, Harrison notes that these changes can be cumulative and transferred to future copies of the virus. Following the genetic changes in the official name of the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, researchers say the virus looks relatively stable. “The virus mutates on average twice a month during this spread process,” said Harrison. This corresponds to about one-third to half the change in influenza that causes flu disease, ”he says.
Researchers are anxiously observing the effects of genetic changes in SARS-CoV-2 on humans. For example, if the coronavirus has developed ways to block parts of our immune system, it can be stored in our body and become stronger. Or if it has evolved to bind to human cells more strongly, it can reproduce more efficiently and quickly.
The minor genetic changes that researchers have observed so far do not appear to have altered the function of the virus. Also this slow rate of change is potentially good news for treatments and vaccines. Researchers predict that the vaccine to be developed against SARS-CoV-2 can protect people against potential mutations for years.