SARS-CoV-2 gene variants provide clues to Coronavirus' Epidemiology
This could be very exciting news — studies in Italy found the virus underlying covid-19 is genetically stable, which is encouraging that any diagnostic, vaccine, or treatment we find to work now is more likely to work in the future should the disease come back again. If this is true this is BIG NEWS!
Many viruses mutate rapidly which makes diagnosing, vaccinating against, or treating them like hitting a moving target. This is the case in the flu that mutates so much that every year the flu vaccine must be reformulated to work agains new genetic variants. In my experience at MD Anderson Cancer Center in cancer research, this is also what makes cancer so difficult to fight — every patient’s disease is a bit different and the cancer mutates over time so even if a treatment works on 99% of it, the remaining 1% can be a genetic variant that is resistant and can make the cancer come back.
This research, done by ITALIAN researchers (pride! I am 25% Italian and have many friends who are phenomenal Italian scientists), found the covid-19 cases in Italy they tested only had 5 strains of the underlying SARS-cov-2 virus, when we might expect several dozen by now. This suggests it is genetically stable. In short if that is true we are not dealing with a fast moving target but a stable one, and if we can figure out how to kick the crap out of this sucker it is more likely our methods will work in the future too. This would be AWESOME! Because I am fully confident the cooperative scientific community will figure this thing out. Two caveats I see: 1. This article is promoting a company’s fast sequencing so I’d want to see study details to see how representative their sampling is and how well the study was done 2. I’ve seen articles that the Italian outbreak is more similar to the Wuhan virus because of a frequent flight between Milan and Wuhan may be the primary source of the outbreak there. Thus, I’d want to see these results replicated in other areas of the world to be sure it holds for the strains experienced there. But this is promising news ... See some other links to similar news articles asking other experts about this topic in the discussion -- still can't find link to underlying scientific article.