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Does COVID-19 Evolve In Humans? Know How It Poses Challenges To Vaccine Development

COVID-19 is currently the biggest, health and economic threat to the world. Researchers and scientists across the world are constantly making efforts to find its treatment and develop a vaccine to combat it.

The biggest challenge in developing the vaccine of COVID-19 is scientists are unable to understand the virus yet, especially its evolution in the human body since its first discovery. This knowledge is important to design an effective vaccine and manage the pandemic.

About The Study

In a study, 377 genome sequences were taken out of which 194 were isolated from COVID-19 infected patient across 21 different countries, 101 from known flu-causing coronavirus, 21 from animals and environment and the remaining 61 from potentially harmful viruses like SARS, MERS, Ebola and Dengue. [1]

After evaluating the genomes of COVID-19 with others, the scientists found that it has strong similarities with SARS, two strains of horseshoe bats and pangolins. The study also says that COVID-19 has moderate similarity with flu-causing coronavirus and very small similarity with Ebola.

COVID-19 has actively evolved and is evolving in the human race. The statement is made after proper observation of multiple COVID-19 strains across different countries from December 2019 to March 2020. These data are essential to understand different viruses and their similarities with COVID-19 so that an effective vaccine and antibodies can be developed in the near future.

Is COVID-19 Virus Evolving In The Human Body?

The study was carried out on 194 complete genome sequences of COVID-19 strain isolated from humans. The 21 countries from where these genomes were obtained are China (85), USA (32), Singapore (11), Australia (10), Japan (9), South Korea (9), France (9), Italy (5), Switzerland (5), Germany (3), Sweden (2), Thailand (2), England (2), Brazil (2), Canada (2), Nepal (1), Cambodia (1), Vietnam (1), Belgium (1), Mexico (1) and New Zealand (1).

The researchers calculated the average similarities between the strains from different months. At first, the average similarities were very high (0.999054) with 29.75 nucleotide differences but in later months, due to mutation, the similarities decreased (0.988468) to 348 nucleotide differences. The result shows the evolution of COVID-19 virus strain which may result in either more severe form or attenuated form.

To Conclude

The above study shows that divergence of COVID-19 virus strain in the human body is possible. They will continue to mutate with time and pose a challenge for scientists in developing a vaccine. However, the severity of the mutation is still unknown. They can either become more lethal or attenuate.

The variations in the virus strain should be the main concern as it says about the behaviour of the virus. This will help identify why people in some countries are not severely affected while in some countries, the virus has taken the lives of many.

Story first published: Tuesday, April 28, 2020, 19:15 [IST]