New Delhi (NVI): In good news for researchers hoping to find a solution to COVID-19, scientists have discovered that coronavirus is not mutating significantly or changing its form as it spreads among the human population.
According to scientists, who are closely studying the novel pathogen’s genetic code, the coronavirus is relatively stable as compared to other viruses which require multiple vaccines to tackle them as they keep changing their form, reports The Washington Post.
The new coronavirus pretty much looks the same wherever it has appeared, and there is no evidence that some strains are deadlier than others, the scientists engaged in the research have said.
The virus that causes the disease Covid-19, SARS-CoV-2, is similar to coronaviruses that circulate naturally in bats. It jumped into the human species last year in Wuhan, China, probably through an intermediate species.
Scientists are now studying more than 1,000 different samples of the virus, Peter Thielen, a molecular geneticist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory told The Post.
Only about 4 to 10 genetic differences in the coronavirus strains have been found among the infected people in the US, and Wuhan in China.
“That’s a relatively small number of mutations for having passed through a large number of people,” Thielen said. “At this point, the mutation rate of the virus would suggest that the vaccine developed for SARS-CoV-2 would be a single vaccine, rather than a new vaccine every year like the flu vaccine,” Thielen was quoted as saying by The Post.
It would be more like the measles or chickenpox vaccines, Thielen said, adding that the vaccine would likely confer immunity for a long time.
According to the scientists, several vaccines against Covid-19 are in development, but experts estimate it will be at least a year to 18 months before one becomes available.
It is possible that a small mutation in the virus could have outsize effects in the clinical outcome of Covid-19, the experts say. That has been known to happen with other viruses. But there’s no sign this is happening with the novel coronavirus.
The dramatic death rates in Italy, for example, are most likely due to situational factors — an older population, hospitals being overwhelmed, shortages of ventilators and the resulting rationing of lifesaving care — and not because of some difference in the pathogen itself, reports The Post.
Two other virologists, Stanley Perlman of the University of Iowa and Benjamin Neuman of Texas A&M University at Texarkana, both of whom were on the international committee that named the coronavirus, told The Post that the virus appears relatively stable.
“Just one ‘pretty bad’ strain for everybody so far. If it’s still around in a year, by that point we might have some diversity,” Neuman was quoted as saying by the newspaper.