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SARS-CoV-2 Mutations: Experts Weigh In

SARS-CoV-2 is an RNA virus and these viruses can mutate every time they divide.  If you isolated the virus copies from an individual infected cell, the group of virus copies might all be slightly different based on the mutations that have occurred.  The RNA pictured in my cell drawing has 30,000 building blocks and any one can change, which affects the amino acid it makes for proteins.  Some mutations increase transmission and/or severity, others do nothing, and still other mutations decrease transmission and/or severity.  

These viruses have spike proteins over their surface, and there is a binding region on the spike that attaches to a receptor on our cells and allows the virus to enter the cell and multiply.  Mutations in the spike protein part of the virus are more likely to have an effect on the disease, but it takes many animal and laboratory studies on the virus to determine the effect of dominant variants before any conclusions about the infections can be verified.  Read Below



Dr. Racaniello, Professor and Virologist at Columbia  University, is concerned that the UK variant is being hyped by the  media  and the epidemiologic data from population studies can't be used to accurately predict biologic changes in the infection.  He says "I do agree we should look into these things but until we have some data we should be careful about what we say."  In studies done on the coronaviruses that cause the common cold it took up to 5 years before they were significantly changed by mutations. 

Several days ago Dr. Fauci said they are trying to get samples of the mutant variant from the UK so they can study it at NIH.  And now a young man in Colorado (with no travel history) has been found.  At this time there is no data that should make us worry about the two vaccines.  They postulate that the mutations affect transmission, but there is no data that suggests that the infection is more severe.  Dr. Osterholm, epidemiologist at the Univ of MN, said on his weekly podcast that if there ever is a mutation that blocks the vaccine,  the mRNA vaccine can be altered in as little as several months.  The collective advice from these scientists is to stay calm, wait for conclusive lab studies to be done, and get vaccinated whenever you can.



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