What Is a Mutation in Coronavirus
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What is Mutation in Coronavirus?

Viruses transfer their RNA, which constitutes their genetic structure, into the living cell, copy them here and reproduce in this way. When any problem during the replication of RNA changes the genetic sequence on the RNA, this is called a mutation. While mutated viruses cause the formation of new virus variants, these variants may show different effects compared to their previous genetic structures. Although mutations can occur in all living species, including humans, the effects of mutation are much more pronounced in single-celled organisms and viruses, since the genetic structure of future generations is completely differentiated after individuals who have mutated. In the process of combating the coronavirus pandemic, mutated new variants of the Covid-19 virus have been detected in different countries, and it has been determined that these genetic changes cause changes in the virus in many different ways, such as the rate of transmission of the virus, its symptoms and the areas it affects in the human body. So, what kind of negativities does the mutation cause in the coronavirus? Here’s what you need to know about the Covid-19 mutation

What Is a Mutation in Coronavirus?

The Sars-Cov-2 virus, which emerged in China in 2019 and spread rapidly, has revealed new variants that have mutated in various regions in the process. As a result of mutations in coronavirus, as in many disease agents, genetic variations have occurred in the circulating virus population and various changes have begun to be seen in terms of the symptoms, course and contagiousness of the disease. Mutations, which are especially important for the effective management of the pandemic, cannot be detected in current screening tests if they are not detected and identified in time. In other words, false negative results can be obtained. For coronaviruses, which are thought to have mutated thousands of times since the end of 2019, scientists have predicted that most of these variants will not cause any effect, and it has been suggested that they can be qualified as passengers. In addition, in some cases, when mutations that create positive effects for the survival and reproduction of the virus occur, the frequency of new variations may increase through natural selection. This is the most important factor that can have an impact on false test results for the coronavirus pandemic. Therefore, genetic variations related to the virus should be continuously investigated and recorded for effective treatment and vaccination practices and accurate diagnosis. Rapid response to new regionally detected variants has a great impact on the control of the pandemic process. In order to prevent the worldwide spread of the new variant and to maintain the effectiveness of the vaccines, stricter quarantine practices should be applied in the regions or countries where new variants are detected.

What Causes the Mutation of the Covid-19 Virus?

A mutation in the virus does not directly change the genetic structure. Most types of mutations affect a specific region and create differences in the way the virus acts, depending on that region. Again, the vast majority of mutations do not succeed to increase dominance. However, mutations that create favorable effects for the survival and reproduction of the virus can lead to the formation of dominant variants. Mutation of viruses poses a significant risk, especially when pandemic conditions are considered, as it makes the diagnosis of the disease difficult in the first place. As mentioned above, mutations that have a positive effect on the reproduction and survival of the virus can reproduce under the influence of natural selection and form new common variants. This leads to false negative results until the new variant is identified and included in viral testing. If the test results are falsely negative, negative consequences such as disruption in treatment and increased transmission from undetected cases occur. Although this does not have a wide-ranging effect for normal viral diseases, it can lead to a rapid spread of disease in the case of a pandemic. However, the mutation seen in the virus can change the course of the infection caused by the coronavirus in humans. While infections caused by some variants have a milder course, some variants may lead to a more severe infection and bring severe complications. Differences in disease symptoms and rate of transmission between different variants are also reported.

Where Have Coronavirus Mutations Been Seen?

The first of the new variants mutated in the coronavirus was detected in the UK. Research and studies on new variants have been accelerated following the statements that the virus, which causes fear all over the world, has mutated during the fight against the pandemic. According to the data shared by the World Health Organization (WHO), in a study examining the genomes of more than ten thousand coronaviruses in 68 different countries around the world, more than five thousand different SARS-Cov-2 variants were detected. Among them, it was determined that the variant called D614G constitutes the most dominant genetic variation, and it was shared that this variant poses the most important threat to vaccine studies. 17 different mutations were observed in the virus with the genome known as the UK variant, which was detected in the UK in 2020. Although the effects of the variant in question such as a higher transmission rate and an infection picture with more severe clinical findings have been identified, much more case studies are needed to confirm such data. The dominant variants available include:

  • The variant first detected in Wuhan, China
  • The variant that caused the first wave on the European continent
  • Alpha variant common in the UK
  • Beta variant detected in South Africa
  • Gamma variant detected in Brazil
  • Delta variant detected in India

Updates are also made in Covid-19 test kits in accordance with such variants detected. In this way, false negative results in coronavirus test results can be prevented in patients infected with mutated viruses. When we look at the studies showing the rate of transmission in general, it is seen that the rate of transmission increases as it progresses from the Alpha variant to the Delta variant. However, much more work is needed before definitive conclusions can be made. On the other hand, an increase in the rate of transmission of the virus does not mean that the lethality or effect of the virus increases. Therefore, examining the newly formed variants in terms of effect and contagiousness will also be very beneficial in terms of the management of the pandemic process.

What is the Effect of Mutations on Vaccine?

Another important problem that may arise from mutation is the decrease in the effectiveness of current vaccine applications. Vaccines developed for existing variants may not be effective enough for new variants that emerge after a while. For this reason, coronavirus vaccines need to be renewed periodically, just like flu vaccines, to be compatible with current variants. The leading vaccine options available work by targeting spike proteins in viruses. Although various mutations in spike proteins have been detected in variants identified so far, this does not mean that the effect of the vaccine has completely disappeared. This is because vaccines lead to the production of antibodies against many different sites on spike proteins. Although a mutation in a single region can change the success rates of the vaccine to a certain extent, it is not currently considered possible by scientists for such a mutation to make the vaccine ineffective. However, with new mutations that occur over time, there is a possibility that existing vaccines will become ineffective. Therefore, genetic variations should be followed very strictly and vaccination procedures should be shaped accordingly.

If you are experiencing the symptoms of coronavirus or if you want to get information about the current Covid-19 vaccines, you can get advice from your doctor by applying to the health institutions. In addition to paying maximum attention to mask, distance and hygiene rules, you can protect yourself from coronavirus by getting your vaccine when it’s your turn.

Covid-19 Virus Muttation and The Vaccine

See more information please visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Variants_of_SARS-CoV-2 

Bibliography: https://www.medicalpark.com.tr/mutasyon/hg-2542

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