As the COVID-19 pandemic takes a new turn every day, the virus strains in the US are continually mutating, scientists in a large-scale pilot study finds. But what does this mean?
The new study conducted by scientists at Houston revealed that the virus is undergoing genetic mutations that are making it even more contagious possibly.
James Musser of Houston Methodist Hospital, who’s study author is of the view that the SARS Cov-2 virus is a relatively stable virus that has certain proofreading characteristics that help it to mutate quite effectively.
A mutating COVID-19 could essentially mean the virus is learning ways to infect as humans continue to learn to avoid it.
To conclude the results, scientists sequenced the genomes of a little over 5k SARS-CoV-2 strains which have been mutating as the virus spreads through the US population, a report in the Washington Post states.
Researchers did not find any lethal mutations even though the virus might become more contagious. It must be noted, virus mutations are normal and most of them are insignificant, experts acknowledge.
Study author James Musser of Houston Methodist Hospital says SARS-CoV-2 is a relatively stable virus because it has a ‘proofreading mechanism’ to replicate.
Despite, as caseloads continue to stack up in the US, the virus has had enough time to mutate which could potentially mean becoming more contagious, study author Musser told The Post.
“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 said. According to Musser, we’ve given the virus enough chance.
All these factors redirect to the fact, that the virus might continue to mutate even after a vaccine is out, or as people keep getting infected and recover, he noted.
This means the vaccine might need to be tweaked a bit every year like what is done with a flu vaccine – as the virus evolves, so does the vaccine to subside it.
However, a virologist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, David Morens said, there is no need to over-interpret the single study though.
“Although we don’t 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,” Morens said.
The US arguably has the highest number of COVID-19 in the world at nearly 7 million cases of the new infection recorded so far.
On Thursday, the nation crossed the bar of 200,000 dwarfing every other country ever more in terms of the highest fatality rates.