(BBC News) The coronavirus that is now threatening the world is subtly different from the one that first emerged in China.
Sars-Cov-2, the official name of the virus that causes the disease Covid-19, and continues to blaze a path of destruction across the globe, is mutating.
But, while scientists have spotted thousands of mutations, or changes to the virus’s genetic material, only one has so far been singled out as possibly altering its behaviour.
The crucial questions about this mutation are: does this make the virus more infectious – or lethal – in humans? And could it pose a threat to the success of a future vaccine?
This coronavirus is actually changing very slowly compared with a virus like flu. With relatively low levels of natural immunity in the population, no vaccine and few effective treatments, there’s no pressure on it to adapt. So far, it’s doing a good job of keeping itself in circulation as it is.
The notable mutation – named D614G and situated within the protein making up the virus’s “spike” it uses to break into our cells – appeared sometime after the initial Wuhan outbreak, probably in Italy. It is now seen in as many as 97% of samples around the world.
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