28 February, 2021

A Game of Microbial Chess

The enemy always strikes when the castle lowers its guard. And the coronavirus is already mutating into forms that may elude the shield offered by current vaccines.

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A Game of Microbial Chess

The race against the virus that causes COVID-19 has taken a new turn: Mutations are rapidly popping up, and the longer it takes to vaccinate people, the more likely it is that a variant that can elude current tests, treatments and vaccines could emerge. The coronavirus is becoming more genetically diverse, and health officials say the high rate of new cases is the main reason, reports the Associated Press. Each new infection gives the virus a chance to mutate as it makes copies of itself, threatening to undo the progress made to control the pandemic. The World Health Organization has urged more effort to detect new variants. The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said a new version first identified in the UK may become dominant in the US by March. Although it doesn’t cause more severe illness, it will lead to more hospitalisations and deaths just because it spreads much more easily.

So far, vaccines seem to remain effective, but there are signs that some of the new mutations may undermine tests for the virus and reduce the effectiveness of antibody drugs...

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