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Is COVID-19 Mutating?

COVID-19 is mutating, but so far changes are small and insignificant.

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The novel coronavirus pandemic is continuing to spread all over the world and there are many questions that are still unanswered. One of those is the subject of mutating. Is there a possibility that the coronavirus will become more dangerous for us? If we manage to find a cure for it, can the mutations make the cure stop working? Will the fact that it can mutate impact the development of vaccines? The answers to these questions will help lower your concerns, at least for a little bit.

Mutations in Viruses

If you are wondering if the COVID-19 coronavirus is changing the answer is yes, it is constantly changing. This has been confirmed by multiple medical experts and is somewhat considered common knowledge among them. However, the important thing here is the type of change that is happening, and how it will affect the important things about it. The most important thing to us currently is how the disease is transmitted, because if we know that we can somewhat contain it.

In the case of the novel coronavirus, all of the changes and mutations are small and insignificant. It may come as a surprise to you, but all viruses are constantly changing small bits and pieces of their genetic code. Coronaviruses are no exception. Mutations are a natural part of the life cycle of every virus, so all of the mutations that are happening with the novel coronavirus are not something to be worried about.

What is an RNA Virus?

RNA viruses use ribonucleic acid as genetic material. Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Coronavirus is an RNA virus. What this means is that it uses ribonucleic acid as its genetic material. In simpler terms, RNA viruses can be described as genetic instructions that are packaged in a structure made of proteins. Once we are infected with a virus of this sort, these instructions basically help the virus to spread and replicate. The virus is constantly multiplying itself and spreading across other cells in our bodies. This is where the mutations can happen.

While the virus is copying itself, it can make small mistakes in genomes. These changes add up and future copies of the virus might have them, thus creating mutations. These mutations can actually be useful and used by researchers to track how the virus behaves.

Mutations of COVID-19

Researchers haven’t found any COVID-19 mutations we should be concerned about. Photo by Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash

While tracking the COVID-19 coronavirus, researchers haven’t found any mutations we should be concerned about. They say that it gets approximately two new mutations monthly, which is nothing unusual. This is how it was behaving during these first few months, and while it may change, it is unlikely.

One other reason we should not be concerned about the mutations of the COVID-19 coronavirus is the fact that the coronaviruses have one specific thing that differs them from regular viruses. This thing actually makes the number of mutations much smaller than normal. 

Coronaviruses “double-check” their genomes once they create the copies, and discard any that don’t seem normal. They keep their genomes mostly intact, which is why their number of mutations is extremely rare. Since they have this added function that allows them to check genomes, coronaviruses are much larger than regular viruses. They are still microscopic, of course, but the size opens up the possibility of them having more functions than we are aware of and can fight off our immune system better. Still, so far there is no reason to concern ourselves with possible mutations since this form is dangerous enough. And with coronaviruses having fewer mutations than usual, it should be the last of our concerns.

About the Author

Ivan loves writing, music, audio production, and social sciences. He lives by the words of one famous sociologist who said that "sociology is a martial art". When he's not writing, he enjoys playing his Stratocaster and video games.

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