Aug, 2020 - By WMR
The entire world has been put to a halt ever since the novel coronavirus broke into a wet meat market of Wuhan, China. Previously named 2019-nCoV by the World Health Organization (WHO), novel coronavirus was later renamed to SARS-CoV-2 by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. The virus has a 96% similarity to bat coronavirus and thus, researchers are suspecting that the outbreak is supposedly originated from bats as well. The spread of COVID-19 has been rampant and devastating across the globe with world economies being forced to lock down their nations. Although some countries such as South Korea, Germany, Australia, and China are appeared to have somewhat recovered from the pandemic, several other countries have a new problem looming over.
A new study has created fears among healthcare experts across the globe, which suggests that the coronavirus has mutated to make it more contagious. The research paper was published by the scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory, which suggests that one strain of the novel coronavirus emerged in Europe is appeared to have mutated to become far more contagious. However, this audacious hypothesis was struck with skepticism from many healthcare experts. They believe there is no solid scientific consensus, which can confirm a significant change in the contagiousness of COVID-19. The latest research was led by computational biologists Bette Korber from Los Alamos National Laboratory who worked in conjunction with the University of Sheffield and Duke University where they examined the global database of strains of SARS-CoV-2. Their analysis reported that one strain the strain named Spike D614G mutated rapidly after it appeared in Europe.
Researchers said that the mutation has a massive impact on a protein’s structure, making it more severe than ever before. According to the authors of the study, “The mutation Spike D614G is of urgent concern; it began spreading in Europe in early February, and when introduced to new regions it rapidly becomes the dominant form.” They also added saying mutation is increasing in frequency at a frightening rate and is more resistant to medical treatment, making more rapid spread. However, outside experts do not believe that it is a severe issue, pointing out the fact that changes in virus, particularly coronavirus, are quite common and has no significant meaning. Adriana Heguy, director of the Genome Technology Center at New York University used the mutation for their model, in order to see if it would make the virus more transmissible and the answer was ‘it is possible’.
However, it was only a model and according to Dr. William Schaffner from Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, mutations are quite common in virus, so far SARS-CoV-2 is quite stable with little mutations around the edge. That being said, the paper requires further scrutiny to understand how lethal the mutation can make the virus in near future. However, there is a common consensus among many experts that the said mutation is common and very unlikely to make further dent. Currently, there is number of research activities underway for the vaccine on SARS-CoV-2 and scientists would be required to take this mutation into account.