Covid Unlikely to Mutate into a Deadly Variant, Says Lead Scientist Behind AstraZeneca Vaccine

There “aren’t many places for the virus to go”, according to the lead scientist behind the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine who says Covid is unlikely to mutate into a much deadlier variant. The Telegraph has the story.

Dame Sarah Gilbert said that viruses tended to become less virulent over time as they spread through a population which was becoming more immune.

Although Dame Sarah said some genetic drift was to be expected, she said Covid would eventually become like other seasonal coronaviruses which cause the common cold and respiratory infections.

Speaking on a Royal Society of Medicine webinar about variants on Wednesday, Dame Sarah said: “The virus can’t completely mutate because its spike protein has to interact with the ACE2 receptor on the surface of the human cell, in order to get inside that cell.

“If it changes its spike protein so much that it can’t interact with that receptor, then it’s not going to be able to get inside the cell. So there aren’t very many places for the virus to go to have something that will evade immunity but still be a really infectious virus.”

She added: “We normally see that viruses become less virulent as they circulate more easily and there is no reason to think we will have a more virulent version of SARS-CoV-2.

“We tend to see slow genetic drift of the virus and there will be gradual immunity developing in the population as there is to all the other seasonal coronaviruses. There are four of them and they’ve been circulating for decades and we’re not even aware of them.

“So we already live with four different human coronaviruses that we don’t really ever think about very much and eventually SARS-CoV-2 will become one of those. The question of how long it’s going to take to get there and what measures we’re going to have to take to manage it in the meantime.” …

Professor Sharon Peacock, the Executive Director of the Covid U.K. Genomics Consortium, which monitors variants for the Government, also told the webinar: “It’s watch and wait, but delta is top of the list and other variants are not particularly concerning at the moment.

“It has been pretty quiet since delta emerged and it would be nice to think there won’t be any new variants of concern. If I was pushed to predict, I think there will be new variants emerging over time and I think there is still quite a lot of road to travel down with this virus.”

Worth reading in full.

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