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How does coronavirus evolve?

Editor: Bolysbek Dana

Author: Tulkibaeva Nursulu


        Viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, have a mutability called a mutation. Mutations are changes in the sequence of DNA or RNA in the genome of a virus. Viruses with new mutations are called "variants" of the original virus.

Below are the facts about the new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus:

1. The virus is constantly changing, but from time to time makes an evolutionary leap.

         During the creation of its copies in the cell, the virus can undergo genetic errors, which leads to new mutations. Such changes in the virus enhance its existing properties. Thus, the form of coronavirus B117 accumulated 17 separate mutations, increased its contagiousness.

2. SARS-CoV-2 acquires new variants, not strains.

         The versions of the virus that spread after B117 tend to re-infect people who are immune after an infection or vaccination. At the same time, such variants of the virus can not be called a new strain. The strains are viruses that have significant differences in the proteins and properties that it carries.

3. Chronic infections and higher levels of population immunity may have allowed the virus to evolve

         After observing patients with COVID-19, the researchers noticed that in individual patients with chronic diseases, the virus has multiple changes, such as changes in parts of the spike protein that is the target of vaccines. Similarly, an increase in the level of immunization in some countries may lead to the spread of variants that are better adapted to evade immunity.

4. Sequencing played a crucial role in tracking the new variants.

         Sequencing the genetic code of the virus helps to detect new variants of the virus, track their spread. The COVID-19 pandemic, compared to past pandemics, is characterized by a high level of virus research due to sequencing.

5. Vaccines are already being changed to deal with new variants of the virus.

         The developed vaccines are already effective against the emerging variants of the virus, and booster (additional) vaccines are produced for additional immunity. The vaccines will likely be constantly updated as the virus evolves.