Research conducted on over 27,000 people infected with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, revealed that it has mutated minimally since December 2019. This, in turn, suggests that one vaccine would be sufficient to combat all of its strains.
The study was conducted by a team of scientists at the Walter Reed Army Research Institute led by Morgane Rolland, head of virus genetics and systemic serology at the WRAIR Military HIV Research Program, and Dr. Kayvon Modjarrad, director of the Institute’s Emerging Infectious Diseases Program. Detailed research results have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
To characterize the diversification of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, researchers compared 18,514 independent viral genome sequences from people in 84 countries and scanned them for changes in the genetic code. The analyzes revealed that to date, the SARS-CoV-2 genome has evolved largely as a result of random processes and not as a result of adaptation to the human hosts encountered.
Coronavirus mutations have little effect on vaccine effectiveness.
The authors of the study concluded that the low level of genetic variation in the coronavirus would make a single, properly tested vaccine effective against all currently circulating SARS-CoV-2 strains.
Virus diversity challenges efforts to develop vaccines against viruses such as HIV, influenza and dengue, but samples from around the world show that SARS-CoV-2 is less diverse than these viruses. We can therefore be cautiously optimistic and recognize that the variety of strains we have studied [coronavirus – ed. ed.] should not be an obstacle in the development of a vaccine against COVID-19 infection. Rolland says.
Rolland, whose research has focused on HIV genetics for years, turned its attention to COVID-19 due to the outbreak of the global pandemic.
"Teamwork will be extremely important to contain the tide of this pandemic," says Rolland.
The question is when an effective vaccine will appear.
More and more biotechnology companies boast about the commencement of the next stages of clinical trials of their preparations, aimed at providing us with effective protection against the coronavirus. However, no entity announced full success ( apart from the Russians who, in turn, are very sparing in publishing any evidence of the effectiveness of their preparation ) and did not provide a date for the start of mass production of their vaccine.
It can therefore be assumed with a high degree of probability that we will not be vaccinated against COVID-19 this year. And this in turn means that the only effective methods of fighting the pandemic will be social distancing, quarantine and restrictions on movement.
This view is shared by the director of the World Health Organization (WHO) for Europe, Hans Kluge, who said on Tuesday that Europe can live with COVID-19 without a vaccine, stopping outbreaks of epidemics with local blockades. In his opinion, to minimize the number of subsequent infections, European governments must take an active role in directing activities, and citizens – comply with the regulations. So it can be assumed that the yellow and red zones will stay with us until the end of 2020 or a little longer.
Scientists are pretty sure: a single vaccine will cope with all strains of the coronavirus