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Study finds 33 mutations of covid-19. Here’s what it means for vaccine development

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The novel covid-19 has acquired mutations capable of substantially changing the way it can cause disease, a new study in China has found, bringing up fears that vaccine development for coronavirus could be hindered.

A team of researchers analysed the coronavirus strains in 11 randomly chosen Covid-19 patients in China and identified 33 mutations, 19 of which were previously undiscovered, in the SARS-CoV-2 virus the strain that causes coronavirus.

Therefore, we provide direct evidence that the SARS-CoV-2 has acquired mutations capable of substantially changing its pathogenicity,” the study, which is yet to be peer reviewed, concludes.

Chao Jiang from Zheijang University, the study’s author, told that without the 1st SARS-CoV-2 strain to sequence, it is hard to determine how these mutations may have changed the virus ability to affect humans, adding that we can only say that these mutations probably can make the virus both stronger and weaker, depending on which one you are looking at, but the repercussions of these findings go a long way as far as development of a vaccine is concerned.

Depending on the nature of the mutations, some mutations would indeed weaken the vaccine effect if they are not taken into consideration. Since vaccines have different strategies that target different things in the viruses, it’s difficult to make a blanket statement. However, there are numerous vaccine developments going on at the same time, so we remain optimistic.”

Another scientist Yong Gia, from Murdoch University in Perth, Australia told until now scientists believed the novel covid-19 tends to mutate at a low rate, suggesting that we may not need to worry too much about vaccine development.

The current study would make people rethink this. In fact, as the virus continues spreading and infecting a large population of people. The number of mutations would still accumulate to a high level, despite the low mutation rate, he says.

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