BEIRUT: The coronavirus pandemic has been infecting people around the world at a rapid rate since late December. Scientists and researchers are attempting to fight the spread of the virus with every mean possible, but unfortunately, adding to the complexity, COVID-19 is one of the viruses that are prone to mutations.
Just like the flu, the coronavirus is among RNA viruses which possess in their genetic material the ability to evolve in the human body, unlike DNA viruses.
Experts defined that viruses mutate throughout their lifecycle, some of them are susceptible to alter rapidly and others to alter slowly. In fact, 8% of the human genome consists of retrovirus fragments that are “leftovers” from viral epidemic our ancestors survived. However, mutation requires an uninterrupted process to take place.
For a better visualization, imagine the virus was a story printed on a piece of paper, and the mutation process is the photocopy machine. This machine that is an enzyme called a polymerase is supposed to produce endless identical copies of the story. Yet, the polymerase occasionally makes mistakes, it can add a word or miss a sentence, which leads to modified versions of the story, ie, the virus.
Dr.Ghassan Dbaibo, Founding Director of the Center for Infectious Diseases Research at AUBMC, explained the different existing types of mutation. The first one can be very efficient and will lead to a better version of the virus and also a stronger spread. The second one is neutral, it doesn’t affect the evolution of the virus, and it just grows under the same composition. And the third one will result in weakening the virus.
“Influenza viruses have the ability to mutate rapidly, this is why each year a new vaccine is created against the flu because the older vaccine version can no longer protect humans,” said Dbaibo to Annahar.
The activity of mutation can harm the patient as well because every human body reacts differently to infections.
Corovanirus is here to stay
Dbaibo clarified that the coronavirus has a significant capacity for spreading, “the idea of entirely eliminating the virus is dismissed,” he said, which means that the human population should adapt to its existence just like any other virus. The only missing dot is the vaccine.
Experts are hoping that the COVID- 19 follows the third type of mutation, which will wear out the virus itself, its competence in spreading, to eventually accommodate to the human body.
The world has recorded 5,115,198 infected coronavirus cases, 330,362 deaths, and 2,040,386 recoveries.
An-Nahar is not responsible for the comments that users post below. We kindly ask you to keep this space a clean and respectful forum for discussion.