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Why you should be worried about the new coronavirus mutation

The coronavirus is already dreadful as it is, but now it’s only going to go downhill.

The new coronavirus is deadlier than ever. The infamous virus has mutated, making it easier for it to enter cells. The latest news tells us that spike proteins help the virus penetrate cells by triggering the virus creating a cell membrane fusion.  

In March 2020, the mutated version of the coronavirus was discovered by David Montefiori who is the director of an AIDS-vaccine research laboratory at Duke University. He contacted Bette Korber, an expert in HIV evolution to help look at thousands of coronavirus genetic sequences to see if the coronavirus was mutating. Bette Korber repeatedly witnessed the same mutation: the coronavirus has acquired spike proteins. 

Spike proteins help virus particles enter cells. Spike proteins are a large “type I” transmembrane fusion that holds thousands of amino acids. Spike proteins help viruses penetrate cells by creating a trigger for a cell membrane fusion. A cell membrane fusion is when two separate lipid membranes merge into a single continuous bilayer. The coronavirus creates cell membrane fusions to attack cells. Spike proteins aren’t the only thing that mutated the D614G mutated as well. D614G is inside the spike proteins made the coronavirus 10x more efficient. D614G does this by changing the positions of the amino acids making it easier to enter cells.

Should you be afraid of the new coronavirus? Yes, you should be, since it is more transmissible than the old virus, it will be more dangerous in the sense that it will make more people sick. The future of the new virus is unclear, as test results have shown that the recent version of the coronavirus has a variant that can infect cells easier, and in addition, some other tests show that the new variant might be easier for the vaccine to target the virus.  

Will the vaccine work on the new coronavirus? A world health organization article states that the vaccine will still work, but these mutations may also alter how well the host’s immune system combats the virus, potentially reducing the efficacy of the current vaccines. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, said data coming from Britain indicating the vaccines will maintain its ability to block the virus but the U.S. will continue to do tests to confirm. Viruses often undergo slight changes as they reproduce and move through a population. In fact, the slight modifications are how scientists track the spread of a virus from one place to another. 

Will this new version of the virus replace the old one? It could. This evolved version of the virus has a 71% infection rate meaning that it can replace the old coronavirus. When a virus mutates, the only way for it to spread to another virus is for the host to spread the virus. For example, a virus that has a mutation that makes it deadly to its human host and kills the host. The virus needs a new, healthy host for its descendants to survive. If it kills its host before the host infects others, that mutation will disappear.

“It should be a red alert to localities that this [coronavirus] variant is now here, and we have to be even more concerned about its potential to cause more infections and what that will do to our health care system said Christopher Snowbeck.  This will just add to the capacity challenges we’ve already had.”

image credit: iXimus

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