Researchers Find Covid-19 Continues to Mutate
Researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory have said that at least one variant of the virus has significantly mutated to become even more contagious. This means it could derail efforts of creating a vaccine, or other medicants to treat the virus. Some researchers around the world however have met this research with their doubts, suggesting the data does not in fact support their claim. Trevor Bedford, a top viral-genome expert at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, says he finds the hypothesis to be plausible, but not yet proven.
In the Los Alamos paper, they claim to have found a variant of the virus in global data, that dominated quickly as the virus spread through Europe. They say that this variant had several mutations that set it apart from the Asian version of the virus.
David Montefiori, a Duke University virologist, said “It’s in an important piece of the virus, and we need to study it to determine whether or not it’s a concern,” and, ““What we’re claiming is that this mutation needs to be studied aggressively, quickly.” He also made a point to say that they are not trying to blow things out of proportion.
Viruses mutating is not something we have no experience with. Mutations occur with a virus when they make mistakes when replicating themselves. Most times however, these changes aren’t big enough to change the virus in a significant way. The researchers at Los Alamos say they have set up a system to identify any mutations that might be significant. The portion of Covid-19 they look at are the spike proteins, the medium with which the virus is able to enter and infect healthy cells. Most vaccines and experimental drugs are designed to target and neutralize these proteins.
Researchers are labeling this mutation Spike D614G and say that, “Now it’s the predominant variant in Europe. In the U.S., this European version is prevalent on the East Coast, while the one originating in China was initially more present on the West Coast.” They are saying that this mutation seems to make the virus more transmissible than the other version.
We need more data still to test this hypothesis, and in the meantime drug makers are trying to create vaccines and therapies for the virus and seem to not be concerned about the mutation findings. The CEO of BioNTech SE said he has “no doubt that from a vaccinology standpoint, we don’t see mutations which could emerge as vaccine-escape variants yet.” The chief medical officer at Moderna shares similar views. Critics say the paper from Los Alamos just doesn’t have enough lab data. It is possible the D614G mutation is significant, we just need more data on the matter. Be sure to check back often at the ABN blog for up to date information regarding Covid-19