Paris (AFP) – Permanent coronavirus mutations are unlikely to change their activity or contagiousness, disease experts say, despite recent studies suggesting a more virulent strain.
A preliminary article, that is, not peer-reviewed by a collection of research colleagues, released last month by the Los Alamos National Laboratory, claimed to have identified a new strain of the virus.
The authors claim that a mutation in one of the peak proteins of the virus made the strain currently circulating in Europe and the USA potentially more powerful than the one that appeared in China late last year.
“The Spike mutation is of great concern: it began to spread in Europe in early February, and when it was introduced into new regions, it quickly becomes the dominant form,” they write.
They said that any new strain could affect the effectiveness of the treatment or vaccines against COVID-19 that are currently under development.
The study made headlines, but sparked calls for caution from disease experts, mainly because the theory of increased permeability was not tested in the laboratory.
“This option may have been successful and has been implemented in places outside Wuhan and various approaches to social distance at an early stage,” William Hanage, associate professor at the Heath Public School, said on Twitter. T. Chan at Harvard University.
“Essentially, the virus has mutated … It doesn’t mean that much. Mutations are what happens when genomes multiply. It comes with the territory, like showers from spring. ”
– “Speculation” –
Viruses, such as COVID-19, are essentially bundles of encoded material – RNA – containing instructions on how to create your own copies.
Since they need cells of another organism for replication, tiny errors occur during RNA reproduction, which leads to mutations.
Researchers at University College London have found that at least 198 sites in the genome of the virus have already undergone sustained mutation.
The authors stated that this “is consistent with the numerous introductions of the virus into regions around the world where local transmission of the virus occurs.”
Lawrence Young, a professor of molecular oncology at the University of Warwick, speaking of research in Los Alamos and Los Alamos, said that any talk about more virulent strains is now “speculation.”
He noted that unlike other viral diseases such as HIV, COVID-19 does not appear to mutate at high frequency.
“There is currently no convincing evidence that mutations have had a significant impact on how the virus affects us,” he said.
– “The virus feels good” –
In an article published this week in the journal Virus Evolution, researchers from the University of Glasgow said they found only one type of virus.
“An analysis of the extensive genetic variation in the sequence present in the genomes of the SARS-CoV-2 virus shows that evolutionary analyzes are unfounded, as these claims that several types of viruses are currently circulating are unfounded,” said Oscar Macklin of the University Center . Virus research.
“It’s important that people don’t worry about viral mutations – they are normal and expected when the virus passes through a population.”
Although mutations do not mean that COVID-19 is becoming more powerful or more contagious, experts emphasized that it is still important to track its evolution.
“Sequencing more genomes will help us better understand the spread of the virus and whether some of the observed minor changes in the behavior of the virus are important and how we should develop effective vaccines,” Young said.
For Ian Jones, a professor of virology at the University of Reading, the problem of mutation was less important than testing and treating people who became infected.
“At our expense, the virus colonizes the human population quite well, and I see no reason for it to become even worse in the near future,” he said.