Editorial

Virus mutates

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 11/5/2020 1:04:26 PM IST

 A study involving more than 5,000 COVID-19 patients in Houston found that the virus that causes the disease is accumulating genetic mutations, one of which may have made it more contagious. According to the paper published in the peer-reviewed journal mBIO, that mutation, called D614G, is located in the spike protein that pries open our cells for viral entry. It’s the largest peer-reviewed study of SARS-CoV-2 genome sequences in one metropolitan region of the U.S. to date. When the world continues to fight the Wuhan virus pandemic that has thoroughly devastated economies and way of life, it is not good news that a new mutation D614G of the Covid-19 causing the virus SARS-CoV-2 has been detected. Said to be ten times more infectious than coronavirus, the new virus mutant –D614G- changes the symptoms, treatments, and other factors which is present in the proteins and changes the amino acid position at 614, from D (aspartic acid) to G (glycine). That’s how it is named D614G. The D614G mutation was first detected in Europe in February in a swap sample. The mutated strain was reported in Malaysia in August. Researches claim that D614G strain has a higher viral load and infectious pattern than that of virus ‘Wuhan1’. As per the lab studies the original strain infects up to 4 cell lines while the new one is ten times more infectious. Some studies also state that the new strain might be more transmissible than the first one. However, as these are the results of the lab studies, the original result might be different when in contact with humans. Medical experts state that till now the mutant only brings changes in the protein spike and most likely won’t affect the immunogenicity much. This means the vaccine is made for Covid-19 can be used for the D614G strain as well. As long as the mutant isn’t aggressive, the treatment works. However, anything can be officially only said once the Vaccine is out and real results can be seen. Nothing much can still be said about the D614G variant. The revelation of how dangerous the mutant is has brought the worst fear of experts forward. Covid-19 has already affected people’s lives and increased mortality rates around the globe. Though viruses with RNA-genomes such as SARS-CoV-2, HIV and influenza undergo mutations quickly, this coronavirus has been very slow in picking up mutations compared to HIV or influenza. Scientists have found a ‘proofreading’ protein in SARS-CoV-2 that keeps its rate of mutations low. This is good news for vaccine development as this is a sign that the virus is stable in nature and hence can easily be neutralised. Scientists have catalogued some 12,000 mutations in SARS-CoV-2 after studying more than 95,000 genomic sequences of the virus. According to studies, the body’s antibody defence against the coronavirus remains strong for at least three months after infection, according to a study of more than 100 people who mostly had mild to moderate COVID-19. Common ailment such as influenza viruses survive for longer outside the body in cold, dry air than in warmer, more humid environments. This has led to conclusions that the virus has chance to infect more people in winter than in spring and summer. Warnings have been issue about expected spike of COVID-19 during winter which would definitely make it as the long winter. 

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