A Snapshot Of SARS-CoV-2 Evolution: Observed Increase Of Infectivity In The Covid-19 Virus

A sports car today is far more advanced than those from the 20th century.

A recent scientific report underscores how rapidly SARS-CoV-2 adapts to selective pressure. The experiments examine how rapidly the virus can adapt to life in a Petri dish. The results are startling, explaining in part the emergence of an entire Greek alphabet of variants over that past year and a half. No matter what the original source, the virus becomes 100 times more infectious, and does so in short order. No wonder new variants seem to pop up no matter where or when we look.

The experiments follow a hallowed tradition of medical science: passaging dangerous human pathogens multiple times through non-natural hosts to derive altered viruses that may be used as a vaccine. That is what Louis Pasteur did to develop the first Rabies vaccine and what Max Theiler did to develop the first and only vaccine for Yellow Fever. It does not always work that way. Sometimes the virus that emerges from multiple passages in animals in Petri dishes is more dangerous than the original. For example, serial passaging of alphaviruses results in mutations that, in some cases, result in higher neurovirulence in mice. The same can be said for feline enteric coronavirus, which when passaged multiple times, results in furin cleavage mutations that correlate with transformation to a more pathogenic biotype.

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© William A. Haseltine, PhD. All Rights Reserved.