NEW YORK: As the new variant has been surfaced that causes COVID-19, experts urged caution, saying it would take years, not months, for the virus to evolve enough to render the current vaccines impotent. They added that no one should worry that there is going to be a single catastrophic mutation that suddenly renders all immunity useless.
According to The New York Times (NYT), scientists are worried about these variants but are not surprised by them. Researchers have recorded thousands of modifications in the genetic material of the coronavirus as it has “hopscotched across the world.”
“Some variants become more common in a population simply by luck, not because the changes somehow supercharge the virus. But as it becomes more difficult for the pathogen to survive — because of vaccinations and growing immunity in human populations — researchers also expect the virus to gain useful mutations enabling it to spread more easily or to escape detection by the immune system,” NYT reported.
“It’s a real warning that we need to pay closer attention, “said Jesse Bloom, an evolutionary biologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle and added, “Certainly these mutations are going to spread, and, definitely, the scientific community — we need to monitor these mutations and we need to characterize which ones have effects.”
The American daily further reported that The British variant has about 20 mutations, including several that affect how the virus locks onto human cells and infects them. Muge Cevik, an infectious disease expert at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland said that these mutations may allow the variant to replicate and transmit more efficiently.
She added that the estimate of greater transmissibility is based on modeling and has not been confirmed in lab experiments. “Over all, I think we need to have a little bit more experimental data… We can’t entirely rule out the fact that some of this transmissibility data might be related to human behaviour,” she said.