Science

Virus mutations could hold clues for COVID-19 vaccine

Virus mutations could hold clues for COVID-19 vaccine”

New research tracking the mutation of the COVID-19 virus shows some mutations could be stronger and more risky than others, a finding that could have major implications for the development of a vaccine.

A large proportion of the coronavirus' global genetic diversity was found in all countries with the largest outbreaks, suggesting vast worldwide transmission when the virus emerged in late 2019, according to the release.

Most observed mutations would be expected to have no, or minimal, outcome to the virus's biology, however tracking these changes can help scientists better understand the pandemic and how Covid-19 is spreading in the community.

Like everything else that has DNA, viruses will slowly mutate as they produce more copies. Writing in Infection, Genetics and Evolution, the team said it has characterised patterns of the genome.

Korber and colleagues devised an automated system that provides real-time critical analysis on the evolution of the spike protein, meant to allow researchers to generate visualizations and summaries of the data.

The virus that causes Covid-19 has not mutated into different types, according to new analysis.

Topol said scientists will have to conduct studies in functional genomics - examining precisely how a specific genetic mutation affects the behaviour of a virus - to find out more.

Using the same GISAID database, a team at University College London in Britain screened the genomes of more than 7,500 viruses from infected patients around the world.

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They expect more mutations will continue to accumulate as the pandemic continues.

In particular, they have identified 198 recurrent mutations of the virus' genome since its emergence, of which almost 80 percent produced non-synonymous changes at the protein level, suggesting a possible ongoing adaptation of the virus.

"If we focus our efforts on parts of the virus that are less likely to mutate, we have a better chance of developing drugs that will be effective in the long run", he said.

The study team, led by the UCL Genetics Institute and featuring Imperial scientists, identified close to 200 recurrent genetic mutations in the virus, highlighting how it may be adapting and evolving to its human hosts.

Among other things, Hanage wrote on Twitter, it's important to remember that any drug or vaccine will be tested against whatever version of the virus is circulating.

It was reported earlier this year that scientists had found two or three strains of SARS-CoV-2 circulating in the population, evidenced by certain mutations that had been detected.

Purified inactivated viruses - safe and effective for the prevention of diseases caused by viruses like influenza virus and poliovirus - have been traditionally used for vaccine development.



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