Coronavirus vaccine could provide years of protection, scientists say

  • Coronavirus vaccine could provide years of protection, scientists say

Coronavirus vaccine could provide years of protection, scientists say

A new study from Italian researchers suggests that the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which is the cause of the COVID-19 disease now causing a global health crisis, is relatively slow to mutate - meaning that any effective vaccine that is developed to prevent people from getting infected should be broadly effective across geographically separated populations over a relatively long period of time.

All viruses evolve over time, accumulating mutations as they replicate imperfectly inside a host's cells in tremendous numbers and then spread through a population, with some of those mutations persisting through natural selection.

The COVID-19 has the ability to proofread and that reduces the "error rate" and the progression of mutation Scientists say that there is no evidence that some strains are actually deadlier and more unsafe than others. However, according to Peter Thielen, a molecular geneticist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, there appear to be only four to 10 genetic differences between various strains of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

There are only about four to 10 genetic differences between the strains that have infected people in the US and the original virus that spread in Wuhan, he said.

"That's a relatively small number of mutations for having passed through a large number of people", Thielen told the Washington Post.

Other viruses mutate very slowly or do not mutate at all, and the coronavirus that leads to COVID-19 appears to be among the first.

A coronavirus vaccine would thus likely be similar to those for measles or chickenpox, single vaccines that don't need to change.

There are already a lot of vaccines and treatments against the coronavirus that are now in development, but medical experts till estimate that it will be at least a year to 18 months before a particular vaccine or cure to be available. "It's great news", Thielen said.

"The virus has not mutated to any significant extent", Perlman said.

As far as the COVID-19 pandemic goes, this new support for the theory that the virus behind it is a slow-moving one in terms of its genetic makeup is very good news indeed.

Neuman contrasted the coronavirus with influenza, which is notoriously slippery. That has been known to happen with other viruses.

Diaz said that two mechanisms may protect children from COVID-19 infections - cross-protective antibodies from multiple upper respiratory tract infections caused by the common cold-causing alpha coronaviruses, and fewer ACE2 receptors in their lower respiratory tracts to attract the binding S proteins of the beta coronaviruses. Though, a team of scientists has suggested that there might actually be two distinct strains of the various with different levels of severity.