A new study conducted by scientists in Houston and published on MedRxiv has revealed new mutations of coronavirus, with one potentially stronger and possibly prone to evolve.
The new mutations, according to the yet-to-be peer-reviewed study, do not impact the clinical outcomes of the disease or make it deadlier. However, one of the mutations could make it more contagious.
“We have given this virus a lot of chances,” one of the authors of the study, James Musser, told The Washington Post. “There is a huge population size out there right now.”
As the virus circulates through the population, it has got the chances to become more transmissable, which may negatively impact the ability to control it, according to David Morens, a virologist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, cited by The WaPo.
While noting that it is only a single study, Morens outlined that the virus may be getting adjusted to the measures like mask wearing, social distancing and washing hands, which may potentially affect the formulation of the vaccine.
“Although we don’t know yet, it is well within the realm of possibility that this coronavirus, when our population-level immunity gets high enough, this coronavirus will find a way to get around our immunity,” Morens said. “If that happened, we’d be in the same situation as with flu. We’ll have to chase the virus and, as it mutates, we’ll have to tinker with our vaccine.”
According to the study abstract, the authors "exploited the genomic data to generate defined single amino acid replacements in the receptor binding domain of spike protein that, importantly, produced decreased recognition by the neutralizing monoclonal antibody CR30022".
"Our study is the first analysis of the molecular architecture of SARS-CoV-2 in two infection waves in a major metropolitan region. The findings will help us to understand the origin, composition, and trajectory of future infection waves, and the potential effect of the host immune response and therapeutic maneuvers on SARS-CoV-2 evolution", the abstract said.
Currently, there are over 31 million cases of COVID-19 registered around the world, with at least 1 million related deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The United States remains the most affected country, with over 6.9 million cases and over 200,000 deaths.
Recently, several countries have seen a surge in COVID-19 cases, with the United Kingdom introducing new measures like curfew on bars and restaurants and increased use of face masks, and Israel re-imposing a nationwide lockdown.