Millions of researchers are working to understand the structure, nature, and working of coronavirus hoping to develop medicine or vaccine which can effectively kill it or modify its working. British researchers are closely monitoring novel coronavirus and have identified nearly 4000 different mutated strains of coronavirus, all of which could be deadly. Contrary to popular opinion, if the coronavirus vaccine is around, it can increase the chances of viral mutations, which may make it more widely spread.
It is a natural viral mechanism to survive and fight to live. No virus wants to get extinct and these mutations are just an attempt by the virus to modify itself to a better strain which can withhold the harsh environmental conditions. but the problem with these 4000 mutated coronavirus strains is that antibodies against any one of them might not protect a person from the rest.
Sharon Peacock who is serving as the director at Covid-19 Genomics– UK, says that identifying the strains is necessary to build up an effective surveillance system. All vaccines target the same spikey protein on the virus’s surface.
These vaccines, once introduced to the public will set an evolutionary driver, which is a natural selection process for viruses. Viruses will do everything to escape the working of vaccines for their survival. This is a part of viral evolution which is the same for all other pathogens, animals, plants, and even humans.
But how did they know that there are more than 4000 different mutated strains of coronavirus, all of which could be deadly? As this virus has only been around for a few years, there are high chances that there are more than tens of thousands of different viral mutations and some of which could be area specific. Most mutations vanish on their own which is also true in the case of this coronavirus pandemic. However, Dr. Peacock is concerned with new mutations that are mainly linked with the spikey proteins in the viral structure.
Coronavirus has a spike-like structure on its outer surface which looks like a needle-like thing, made of protein. These spikes help the virus to enter inside the human body and all current vaccines including the Pfizer vaccine or Moderna vaccine are targeting this same protein to inhibit viral entry inside the body. basically, anything which could affect the working of this spikey protein will determine the efficiency of a vaccine.
Wendy Barclay from the ‘Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies’, UK says that there are high chances that coronavirus mutations will fail the vaccines by decreasing their efficacy.
One mutated version of coronavirus named, N439K was seen in Scotland and it was involved in infecting more than 500 people. However, once the first national lockdown was proposed, this strain gradually vanished on its own. Interestingly, this strain is now identified in other parts of the UK, US, and Europe too.