Novel Coronavirus Mutations Do Not Appear to Increase Transmissibility



Among more than 12,706 mutations identified, some 398 appeared to have occurred repeatedly and independently, the researchers said. The scientists came to this conclusion after analysing the virus genomes of over 46,000 people with COVID-19 from 99 countries.

Researchers at University College London (UCL) warned that the world needs to remain vigilant for genetic changes to Sars-Cov-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.

While most mutations are neutral, they said others can be advantageous or detrimental to the virus, adding that both can become more common as they get passed down to descendant viruses.

The research team from Britain's UCL and Oxford University, and from France's Cirad and Université de la Réunion, analysed virus genomes from 46,723 people with COVID-19 from 99 countries, collected up until the end of July 2020.

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London- The COVID-19-causing coronavirus is mutating as it spreads around the world in the pandemic, but none of the mutations now documented appears to be making it able to spread more rapidly, scientists said on Wednesday. Of these, the researchers sharpened 185 mutations that occurred at least three times independently during the course of the epidemic.

The researchers found no evidence that any of the common mutations is increasing the transmissibility of the virus.

This includes one mutation in the virus spike protein called D614G, which has been widely reported as being a common mutation that may make the virus more transmissible.

The study noted: "The low density lipoprotein (LDL) receptor has been shown to mediate HCV internalization via binding to virus associated LDL particles, a phenomenon common to many viruses that, like HCV, belong to the Flaviviridae family".

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The scientists say that these results define cross-reactive and induced SARS-CoV-2-specific CD8 T-cell responses as potentially important determinants of immune protection in mild novel coronavirus infection.

With SARS-CoV-2, the first vaccines that prove effective against the disease it causes may obtain regulatory approval and begin to be used to immunize people before the end of the year.

Lead author Professor Francois Balloux (UCL Genetics Institute) added: "We may well have missed this period of early adaptation of the virus in humans. By that time, viral mutations crucial for the transmissibility in humans may have emerged and become fixed, precluding us from studying them".

They said the imminent introduction of vaccines may "exert new selective pressures on the virus" that may lead to mutations that do not respond to jabs.

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Professor Ballux concluded, "The news on the vaccination front looks great". "The virus may acquire vaccine escape mutations in the future, but we are confident that we will be able to detect them quickly, allowing vaccines to be updated on time if needed".

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