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  • ever since the coronavirus outbreak began we've  all had a lot of questions where did the virus  

  • come from how does it spread how infectious is it  and is it mutating to become more contagious well  

  • today we're going to clear up perhaps the biggest  question of all if this virus is mutating what  

  • does it mean for us but first let's just make sure  that we're all on the same page about mutation  

  • mutations are essentially changes to an organism's  genetic material that can happen at any phase of  

  • life they can happen for a whole host of reasons  like if dna or rna does a sloppy job at copying  

  • itself during cell division or if an organism  is exposed to damaging environmental factors  

  • such as smog or uv light mutations can affect any  aspect of an organism's life from its appearance  

  • to its behavior or they can have absolutely  no effect at all and while mutation rates  

  • are naturally higher in viruses than say humans  mutations are in fact absolutely essential to the  

  • evolution of all life forms so the term mutation  i think has lots of connotations but mutation  

  • itself you can just think of it really as beingchange and that's all it is it's a small change in  

  • the genome at a certain position in the genome  and all organisms mutate it's not a surprise  

  • that we have a virus that is mutating in fact  that's absolutely normal mutations are generally  

  • really simple things an a and the virus's  genetic code might change to a t or a g to a c  

  • these letters specify particular nucleotides or  bases in a gene at some point early on in the  

  • pandemic one of the viruses 30 000 letters jumped  resulting in a protein d to g change creating a  

  • mutation in a paper published in early 2020 a team  from the los alamos national laboratory suggested  

  • that this mutation was causing sar cov2 to be more  contagious by allowing the virus to enter cells  

  • more efficiently d614g is probably the most  famous mutation in the sars cog2 genome it  

  • was really the first one that people picked up  as potentially interesting and then since then  

  • there's really been an explosion of studies to  try and understand what this mutation might do  

  • there's currently no strong or good evidence that  this mutation changes the severity of disease or  

  • really affects how the disease manifests itself  when it was first reported in march this mutation  

  • was only found in a few of the genetic sequences  that were available to scientists at the time and  

  • was mostly present in europe but by april it was  present in over half of the available sequences  

  • and had expanded globally today this mutation  is so widespread that it isn't just a deviation  

  • from the pandemic it is the pandemic luck  is really an important contribution it's not  

  • inconceivable that we had a subset of the viral  population that was for example introduced into  

  • europe or eurasia where we really had very few  interventions in place that pocket of viruses  

  • expanded very happily and readily until we had for  example lockdowns we should also keep in mind that  

  • this mutation is not found on its own so it's  found with three others almost 100 of the time  

  • and so this is quite consistent with the idea that  we might have this ancestral virus that happens to  

  • have these four mutations it gets introduced to  regions of the world it proliferates and actually  

  • we see these mutations at really very high  frequency if we look at stars cos2 now around the  

  • world maybe 80 of them actually carry this set of  four mutations and so we certainly can't ignore it  

  • so are these mutations just par for the course or  are they contributing to the emergence of entirely  

  • new strains different from the original one  that first left wuhan in 2019 well this is where  

  • things get a little murky there's still no clear  evidence that sar cov2 has evolved into forms that  

  • are significantly different from the dominant  strain that we're familiar with in fact there's  

  • no real consensus in the scientific community on  how many strains of the coronavirus even exist  

  • or even if more than one strain exists at all  and the reason for that might be because there's  

  • no universally accepted definition for strain  to begin with generally we would use the word  

  • strain where we see marked differences between  pathogens based on their functional behavior  

  • that's not what we see in sars cog2 if we look  at the genomic diversity of this particular virus  

  • it's still really very low so low that if you  took a sample from an infected patient in china  

  • and a sample from someone in the u.s those  samples would be different only by a handful  

  • of changes although those changes might still  provide information about how the virus transmits  

  • which leads us to the final question what  does this mutation mean for us we need to  

  • be very aware of the regions that our vaccines  or antibody therapies are targeting the vast  

  • majority of these are targeting the spike protein  and so we particularly are looking for mutations  

  • in that region d614g falls slightly outside of  what we would call the the most important region  

  • of the spike protein at the same time any of these  mutations which have been observed in this region  

  • are still really at very low frequency and this  gives us plenty of opportunity to characterize  

  • their potential impact for now we watch we  relate and we monitor any lingering questions  

  • about mutation and its potential effects on  future covin 19 treatments or do you have any  

  • other coven 19 related stories that you want to  see us cover let us know down in the comments  

  • make sure to subscribe to seeker for more coven  19 coverage and as always thank you so much for

  • watching you

ever since the coronavirus outbreak began we've  all had a lot of questions where did the virus  

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B2 mutation strain organism genome genetic protein

If the Coronavirus is Mutating, What Does That Mean For Us?

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    Summer posted on 2020/12/17
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