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Slight Variability in Coronavirus Mutations Could Make COVID-19 Vaccine Effective Against All SARS-CoV-2 Strains

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 05 Aug 2020
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Researchers have found that the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which presents at least six strains, shows little variability despite its mutations, suggesting that the mutations do not impinge on the process of developing effective COVID-19 vaccines.

Currently, there are six strains of coronavirus. The original one is the L strain that appeared in Wuhan in December 2019. Its first mutation - the S strain - appeared at the beginning of 2020, while, since mid-January 2020, there were the V and G strains. To date, strain G is the most widespread and mutated into strains GR and GH at the end of February 2020. A look at the coronavirus map shows that strains G and GR are the most frequent across Europe and Italy. According to the available data, GH strain seems close to non-existence in Italy, while it occurs more frequently in France and Germany. In North America the most widespread strain is GH, while the GR strain is found more frequently in South America. In Asia, where the Wuhan L strain initially appeared, the spread of strains G, GH and GR is increasing. These strains landed in Asia only at the beginning of March, more than a month after their spread in Europe. Globally, strains G, GH and GR are constantly increasing. Strain S can be found in some restricted areas in the US and Spain. The L and V strains are gradually disappearing. In addition to the six main coronavirus strains, researchers have also identified some infrequent mutations, which, at the moment, are not worrying but still need to be monitored.

Researchers at the University of Bologna (Bologna, Italy) carried out the most extensive study ever on SARS-CoV-2 sequencing by drawing from the analysis of 48,635 coronavirus genomes, which were isolated by researchers in labs all over the world. This made it possible for the researchers to map the spread and the mutations of the virus during its journey to all continents. The first results were encouraging as they found that the coronavirus presents little variability, approximately seven mutations per sample.

"The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is presumably already optimized to affect human beings, and this explains its low evolutionary change", said Federico Giorgi, researcher at Unibo and coordinator of the study. "This means that the treatments we are developing, including a vaccine, might be effective against all the virus strains".

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