Researchers studying the novel coronavirus’s genetic code say the virus is not mutating significantly as it moves through the human population, which increases the chance that a vaccine could provide long-lasting protection.
According to Peter Thielen, a molecular geneticist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, scientists studying more than 1,000 samples have found only about 4 to 10 genetic differences between the strains infecting people in the U.S. and the original virus that spread in Wuhan, China. “That’s a relatively small number of mutations for having passed through a large number of people,” Dr. Thielen told The Washington Post. “At this point, the mutation rate of the virus would suggest that the vaccine developed for SARS-CoV-2 would be a single vaccine, rather than a new vaccine every year like the flu vaccine.”
“When two flu viruses are in the same cell, they can swap some segments, potentially creating a new combination instantly – this is how the H1N1 ‘swine’ flu originated,” Benjamin Neuman, PhD, a virologist at Texas A&M University, explained. So far, there have been no signs of this happening with the novel coronavirus.