COVID-19 mutations strengthen the threat but help respond to the virus


Taken from the

CDC researcher tracks the mutations of the virus in hopes of finding treatment.

As the Covid-19 virus circulates through the world, many are left wondering when this will all be over and people can return to their normal lives. Covid-19 is still very new and the long term effects of the virus are still unknown, this has become a point of uncertainty for millions across the globe. Researchers at Stanford University have been tracking the virus closely and believe that the best way to keep Covid-19 under control is to keep the infection rate small. Virus’ mutate when they infect a large percentage of the population, but if the infection rate is small then it is less likely for the virus to adapt.
The light at the end of the tunnel that is on everyone’s mind is the eventual development of a vaccine. But the safety of our world is yet to be determined. Human safety is the number one priority on doctors ‘ minds, but other obstacles have started to get in the way. For instance there is no guarantee that if one is affected then recovered, they are prone to getting reinfected. Doctors say that the reinfection number is very small, much less than 1% and most cases are mild but immunity is not a promise. And of course the health and safety of elderly people and those with pre-existing conditions continue to be a challenge. As of now the timeline for a possible vaccine is unclear but doctors are in agreement that once clinical trials are done on the infected it is unrealistic to believe that a vaccine could be readily available within less than 6 months. A rational estimate seems to be around 12-18 months before things are truly back to normal. Upper School biology teacher Cathleen Drilling points out that scientists have been tracking the mutations of the virus since it started.

The virus has been mutating all along…”

— Drilling

“The virus has been mutating all along…This is very useful to scientists as they track the spread of the virus across the globe as they look for its ‘fragile parts’. By this I mean that they can see where mutations accumulate in its genome that have no impact on its function” Drilling said.
Drilling also explained how scientists can use an inverse theory to see which areas where there aren’t any mutations occurring.
“Those areas are ‘fragile’ because a mutation in that sequence would eliminate the virus. Anytime a mutation arose there, the virus immediately died. This tells researchers which sequences are good ones to be targeted for treatment and elimination.” Drilling said.
As for a return to a new normal, Drilling encourages students and community members to do as they have been doing and follow the guidance of the epidemiologists and doctors.
For now follow coronavirus guidelines and think twice before you go out to hang out with your friends or in public places. We are going to get through this, but it will take time.