Researchers in London have recently found out that the deadly coronavirus which has now infected over 4.1 million people across the world is “well adapted to humans”. After the analysis of over five thousand strains of SARS-CoV-2 from at least 62 countries, the scientists noted that the virus is fairly stable but has gained some mutations including the changes in the genome that impacts the ‘spike protein’ that is used by the virus to infect the human cells.
In a non-peer reviewed study led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine states that it still remains unclear how the modifications in the strain are affecting the coronavirus. However, since these mutations have occurred independently in different countries, it is speculated that the novel virus is benefitted by them. According to the study, the researchers have not yet determined if “they affect therapies or vaccines to combat the virus or are making the virus more aggressive”.
How is #COVID19 evolving?— London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (@LSHTM) May 7, 2020
New LSHTM analysis of mutations across more than 5,000 viruses has revealed the scale of genetic changes in the #coronavirus.
"We have seen some variations that could be important for diagnostics, #vaccines and therapies."
➡️ https://t.co/nWb5zjPceg pic.twitter.com/ohU1wQSlox
The critical spike protein modifications are apparently a rare sight but the professor of emerging infectious diseases and a senior author on the study Martin Hibberd has stressed that the recent discovery needs global surveillance of the coronavirus so that more surprising changes are picked up faster. According to him, the mutations can have "important implications" on the vaccines, drugs and therapies that are being developed to tackle the global health crisis.
Hibberd said, “Overall, the virus does not seem to have mutated very much and most strains are relatively similar to each other. This suggests that the virus is well adapted to humans and is not changing rapidly."
“However, while the number of genetic variations at this stage of the pandemic were relatively small, we have seen a few that look important to the virus and these could have important implications for diagnostics, vaccines and therapies,” he added.