Some COVID-19 mutations stronger than others
New research tracking the mutation of the COVID-19 virus shows some mutations could be stronger and more dangerous than others, a finding that could have major implications for the development of a vaccine.
The studies, conducted in the US and UK, have identified hundreds of different mutations of the virus, however this alone is not an unusual finding.
Since the outbreak began, scientists knew the virus would mutate – as do all viruses, including the flu. The question has been - how fast is it mutating and is it getting stronger?
Preliminary research conducted in the US has identified one particular mutation which scientists involved in the study believe to be stronger and more dangerous than any of the other mutations.
Overall, the study identifies 14 different mutations, however the mutation D614G is described in the study as being of "urgent concern".
The report suggests that particular mutation began spreading through Europe in early February and "when introduced to new regions it rapidly becomes the dominant form".
Another study from University College London (UCL) identified 198 recurring mutations to the virus however researchers have said this is not necessarily a worrying sign.
"Mutations in themselves are not a bad thing and there is nothing to suggest SARS-CoV-2 is mutating faster or slower than expected," one of its authors, Professor Francois Balloux, said.
A study from the University of Glasgow, which also analysed mutations, said these changes did not amount to different strains of the virus. They concluded that only one type of the virus is currently circulating.
Many of the vaccines currently being developed for COVID-19 rely on identifying a specific anti-body that attacks the virus but in order to identify an antibody, scientists need to understand in extreme detail, the virus itself.
The faster a virus mutates, the harder this becomes because it constantly changes. The flu virus, for example, mutates very quickly which is why people are encouraged to get a new vaccine each flu season.