A significant breakthrough in the battle against COVID-19 came in early January 2020, when for the first time the entire viral genome was sequenced from the novel coronavirus that causes the SARS-CoV-2 infection. Since then, it has mutated at a very slow pace during the last few months. And the latest versions of COVID-19 Mutation aren’t far from the original virus when it does mutate. RNA viruses, such as flu and measles, are more vulnerable to modifications and mutations compared to DNA viruses, such as influenza, smallpox and human papillomavirus (HPV). The current coronavirus is an RNA virus and, as it comes into contact with a host, it begins to make new copies of itself which can then invade other cells.

Every viral vaccine contains material which is identical to the virus they seek to protect against. This tricks the immune system into staging a response and generating ready-to-use antibodies should it ever come up against the real thing. The immune system, in the case of the coronavirus, generates antibodies that attack the spike protein – the component of the virus used to enter our cells. One concern is that the virus mutates to form “mutants of escape” There are mutated forms of the virus which are not detected by the vaccine-induced antibodies. We see this with other viruses, for example with influenza. Each year, the flu vaccine must be changed to counter changes in circulating strains. Fortunately the novel coronavirus has a lower rate of mutation than the influenza. Mutations were also infrequent in the regions of the epitope (the sites in the spike protein to which the antibodies attach).

 A study at Scripps Research Institute in Florida identified the mutation named “D614G” — occurred on the spike protein, the portion of the virus that makes our cells bind and fuse it. The D614 G mutation facilitates an infection of our cells by the virus. This isn’t the only mutation that has occurred in the novel coronavirus since its existence on the earth. Many such mutations are slowly but gradually being discovered by scientists all over the world. This can have some effects on the vaccine preparation for the virus.

If the mutation triggers a more serious disease or raises the risk of death is still uncertain. It is also unknown if the new mutation infects and sickens people differently. At this time the rates of illness and hospitalization caused by the latest variant tend to be identical. More data is needed to understand the implications of the new COVID-19 Mutation, such as whether post-recovery reinfections are possible and whether the changes could affect the developing vaccines and treatments.