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Experts: Novel coronavirus not mutating quickly, will respond to vaccine

Experts: Novel coronavirus not mutating quickly, will respond to vaccine
March 26
00:00 2020
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Researchers working to understand the COVID-19 disease, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and hunting for a cure have reported that the novel virus is not mutating at a fast rate and any vaccine produced to combat the disease would have a long-term effect.

Speaking with The Washington Post, Peter Thielen, a Molecular Geneticist at the Applied Physics Laboratory of Johns Hopkins University, stated that the virus strain currently spreading through the US has less than 10 genetic differences compared to that first reported and sequenced in Wuhan, China despite the large number of infections already recorded worldwide.

“That’s a relatively small number of mutations for having passed through a large number of people. At this point the mutation rate of the virus would suggest that the vaccine developed for SARS-CoV-2 would be a single vaccine, rather than a new vaccine every year like the flu vaccine,” he said.

The statement by Thielen, who has spent seven years at the reputable Johs Hopkins University, was also echoed by an Italian scientist, Stefano Menzo, a professor at Ancona University.

He told PR Newswire that other viruses could have had over a dozen differences due to mutation caused by a long infection cycle.

“Had we investigated other viruses we might have expected up to dozens of new mutations after so many infectious cycles in patients. Our initial data show that this is a very stable RNA virus, with only five novel variants,” Menzo added.

Thielen further added that the genome differences in SARS-CoV-2 virus strains causing the COVID-19 have not affected clinical outcomes, with high death rates in Italy caused by other factors.

“So far we don’t have any evidence linking a specific virus [strain] to any disease severity score, right now disease severity is much more likely to be driven by other factors,” Thielen said.

Menzo, who is the head of Virology at Ancona University Hospital, further stated that the potentially stable genome is good news in the search for a potent vaccine, one which would definitely have a long-term effect in preventing and stopping COVID-19 for “many years” when discovered.

“A virus with a stable genome is good news for vaccine development because it indicates that the effectiveness of vaccines could be more consistent, possibly over many years,” he stated.

COVID-19 has moved from the Chinese theater to the European, American and African centres, with over 400,000 infected worldwide and over 18,000 deaths.

Highest fatality of over 6,000 has been reported in Italy, and Nigeria currently has 51 confirmed cases with one death and two patients already recovered from the disease.

The World Health Organization recently compiled a list of over 40 vaccine candidates at different stages of testing, two – an Adenovirus Type 5 Vector and LNP – encapsulated mRNA- are presently in phase one of clinical evaluation.

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