The World Health Organization is investigating a new variant of coronavirus that has popped up in Great Britain, but experts say we shouldn’t be worried that the virus is mutating.
Let’s connect the dots.
Linked to case rise in parts of United Kingdom
Britain announced the new variant saying it may be responsible for a sharp rise in cases in the south of England. There is no evidence that this mutation is more deadly than other strains, and authorities in Britain believe vaccines will still be effective against it. The mutation effects the spike proteins on coronavirus that allows it to infect cells. Right now, scientists are trying to determine if this mutation allows coronavirus to spread faster.
Mutations are common in viruses
The fact that this virus is mutating is not surprising.
When a virus infects a cell it starts making copies of its own genetic instructions. Those copies are not perfect copies and mistakes— think of them like typos— build up over time as it spreads. If a change made in that code helps the virus survive than that mutated strain has a better chance of surviving. But only certain changes in the code can make a virus deadlier, and therefore those changes are more rare.
Changes help track coronavirus
Mutations have actually helped scientist track coronavirus as it spread. That’s how we know a mutated strain of COVID-19 spread from eastern China to Europe to New York City. The unique genetic sequence of the mutation allowed them to follow this pandemic as it unfolded.