World Health Organization (WHO) Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan on January 12, 2020 in Geneva.
FABRICE COFFRINI | Via AFP Getty Image
World Health Organization officials said on Monday that the coronovirus is mutating “at a much slower rate” than seasonal influenza, even as officials in the UK announced this weekend that a new mutation of the virus called it And allows to spread more easily.
Seasonal influenza mutates so often that scientists regularly have to develop new vaccines to vaccinate populations against the virus each year. UK officials have told the WHO that Kovid-19 vaccines appear to be effective against new strains, but more research is needed. While all viruses are naturally mutated, each mutation does not make a virus more infectious or more viral.
“SARS-CoV-2 is mutating at a much slower rate than influenza,” WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said in a press briefing. “And so far, even though we have seen many changes and many mutations, none have had a significant effect on the susceptibility of the virus to any of the currently used therapeutics, drugs or vaccines under development, “And there is an expectation that this will continue to happen. “
WHO officials reiterated that UK officials said the new version could be 70% more infectious than the original strain of the virus. The Executive Director of WHO’s Health Emergency Programs Drs. Mike Ryan said it was unclear whether the increase in prevalence in Britain is due to mutations or human behavior.
“We’ve seen a small increase in reproduction numbers by the UK,” he said, meaning the virus is spreading faster, which could mean it’s more contagious or more easily in the cold months. spreads out. It may also mean that people are becoming lax about following public health protocols. “It remains to be seen how much of them are due to specific genetic changes in the new version. I have some doubts.”
Maria Van Kerkhov, head of the WHO’s Emerging Diseases and Zoonosis unit, said UK officials estimated the mutation had caused the virus’s fertility rate to rise from 1.1 to 1.5. This means that each person who is infected with the variant is estimated to have infected another 1.5 people, if infected with the original variant.
He said that officials are investigating three elements of the new version. She said that scientists are paying attention to whether it spreads more easily, whether it causes more or less severe disease, and how antibodies respond to infection. Van Kerkhov and others emphasized that the new version has no effect on the effectiveness of Kovid vaccines.