Coronavirus mutation fears as expert warns there are ‘likely many more to come’
Scientists have warned that there are more mutated strains of Coronavirus on their way following a surge of 230 million global cases a day.
Researchers say that the more people that catch the virus, the more opportunity it has to evolve – leading to more infectious variants.
In the US alone three homegrown strains have been spotted, less than 24 hours apart.
Trevor Bedford, a scientist at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Centre, posted a thread on Twitter outlining his thesis.
The expert said: "After ~10 months of relative quiescence we've started to see some striking evolution of SARS-CoV-2 with a repeated evolutionary pattern in the SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern emerging from the UK, South Africa and Brazil.
"…My (highly speculative!) hypothesis is that the emergence of these variant viruses arises in cases of chronic infection during which the immune system places great pressure on the virus to escape immunity and the virus does so by getting really good at getting into cells."
He speculated that weaker immune systems allow the virus to linger, meaning that it has to be fought over and over, allowing it to evolve.
As a result of lingering in chronic patients, the virus mutates and becomes even more infectious than it was before.
"Again, this hypothesis is highly speculative at this point, but separately, the fact that we've observed 3 variants of concern emerge since September suggests that there are likely more to come," he said.
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Meanwhile, researchers in the US have discovered a third American variant that could be the most transmissible yet.
Experts at the Southern Illinois University Carbondale traced a new strain, 20C-US, all the way back to Texas, in May.
Although it has not spread much past the state’s borders it could be responsible for at least half of American cases – the most dominant strain in America.
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It was discovered only a day after Ohio scientists announced the first of two other homegrown variants, which is basically identical to the Kent strain.
The transmissible 20C-US variation has been reported as far as Israel, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan.
It has demonstrated two mutations in the spike protein, Daily Mail reported, meaning that it is evolving.
Pfizer and Moderna have tested their vaccines against the international variants expect the jabs to provide protection.
The UK’s Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance previously admitted "we don’t know for sure" if the vaccines being rolled out on the NHS will work on the strains from Brazil and South Africa.
He told Robert Peston: "There’s a bit more of a risk that this might make a change to the way the immune system recognizes it but we don’t know.
"Those experiments are underway"
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