Although SARS-COV-2, the Coronavirus which causes COVID-19 disease, is mutating as it spreads unabated all over the world, none of the documented mutated variants of the virus have caused the disease to spread more quickly.
Researchers at the Genetics Institute of University College London (UCL) have made this claim in a recently published study after identifying 12,706 mutations of SARS-COV-2 through the virus genomes obtained from 46,723 COVID-19 patients from 99 countries.
Of the 12,706 mutations, 398 occurred repeatedly and independently. Around 185 mutations of the Coronavirus occurred at least three times independently.
However, none of the mutations have increased the transmissibility of the Coronavirus over the course of the pandemic. Instead, most mutations of the virus have been neutral so far.
Lucy van Dorp, a professor at UCL’s Genetics Institute, has said that viruses are known for mutating all the time and some mutate more frequently than others. Fortunately, the research team did not find any of the mutations that caused the COVID-19 to spread more rapidly.
However, she added, it is incumbent upon healthcare authorities to remain vigilant and continue monitoring new mutations, especially when vaccines are about to be rolled out after regulatory approvals.
Francois Balloux, a professor at UCL’s Genetics Institute, has said that these findings do not pose any threat to the efficacy of Coronavirus vaccines.
He cautioned that large-scale vaccination could apply certain new pressures on the virus, forcing it to try to evade the immune system. However, if required, scientists will be able to easily identify these mutations and will update Coronavirus vaccines accordingly within time.