LISTEN: New COVID variants . . . . .

LISTEN: New COVID variants . . . . .

Postby Oscar » Sat Jan 09, 2021 3:00 pm

New COVID variants: what's driving the virus to evolve, and what we can do about it

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In an evolutionary arms race, variants of the virus could arise to evade a vaccine-induced immune response

CBC Radio January 08, 2021

Scientists are concerned the COVID-19 coronavirus variants may evolve to evade the vaccine response. (Nathan Denette / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

The rampant spread of COVID-19 and concern about potentially more transmissible variants of the virus from the U.K. and South Africa has scientists concerned about whether or not vaccines will hold up against these strains.

"Once more people are vaccinated, there will be potentially a selection pressure on the virus to evolve antigenically, meaning that we could see variants emerge that are more capable of evading immune responses induced by vaccination," said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Georgetown University's Center for Global Health Science and Security.

She said she's not surprised to see more transmissible variants arise because viruses mutate all the time. Every time the virus replicates, or reproduces itself, there is a small chance an error — a mutation — can be introduced into its genome. If one or a combination of those mutations gives the virus the ability to spread more easily, that variant can out-compete other versions of the virus to become the dominant version spreading in the human population.

The U.K. variant contains 23 mutations and the South African variant has at least 21 mutations, with some overlap between the two.

She said experiments are in progress right now to determine whether one of these mutations — or perhaps a combination of them — may be driving increased transmissibility. Researchers are investigating whether the virus has acquired the ability to bind more strongly to cells, allowing it to invade more easily, or perhaps gained the ability to replicate more efficiently. . . . .

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