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Wed Dec 16, 2020, 12:54 AM

British officials identify coronavirus mutations, but significance remains unclear

Source: Washington Post

As vaccines are rolling out, the coronavirus is on the move as well, not merely spreading but also mutating, and possibly becoming more transmissible. There is no evidence that these changes are making the virus deadlier, but new research has provided evidence that the virus is not a static target of vaccines and will need to be watched closely to see how it responds to therapeutic interventions and the human immune system.

The issue of mutations sparked headlines across the United Kingdom after a top government official, Health Secretary Matt Hancock, stood in the House of Commons on Monday and announced that more than 1,000 confirmed coronavirus infections in southeast England show a suite of genetic mutations that might be driving the surge in that region.

That news was quickly followed by a striking statement from Jeremy Farrar, the head of the Wellcome Trust biomedical research foundation, saying “there is evidence to indicate a new variant of the Covid-19 virus” and calling this development “potentially serious.” He said it is unclear whether the variant is responsible for the spike in infections in parts of the U.K. or what this may or may not mean for transmission of the virus and the efficacy of vaccines.

“The pressure on the virus to evolve is increased by the fact that so many millions of people have now been infected. Most of the mutations will not be significant or cause for concern, but some may give the virus an evolutionary advantage, which may lead to higher transmission or mean it is more harmful,” Farrar said.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/british-officials-warn-of-possible-coronavirus-mutation-but-evidence-is-sketchy/2020/12/15/e543b658-3ef1-11eb-9453-fc36ba051781_story.html

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