The researchers, who isolated a strain of the SARS-Cove 2 virus from a sample collected in India in January, said the mutation made the virus less able to bind to human cell receptors called ACE2, an enzyme present in the lungs.
The researchers explained, according to Newsweek, that the discovery of this mutation “raises a warning that the development of the current vaccine may become useless in any future epidemic, if more mutations are identified.”
However, the research team led by Changhua National University of Education in Taiwan, in cooperation with Murdoch University in Australia, confirmed that the SARS-Cove 2 virus that causes the Covid-19 epidemic has a low rate of change.
“We have confirmed that SARS-Cove 2 has a relatively low mutation rate, but we have also demonstrated that a new mutation with different virulence and immune properties has already appeared,” they said, according to Newsweek.
But Jenna McCucci, a lecturer in immunology at the University of Sussex and not working on the study, told Newsweek that despite the importance of this discovery, she does not believe the vaccination efforts are in vain and added:
“Small mutations are expected with any virus. The mutation that appeared in this report seems to reduce association with ACE2, which means less virulence and perhaps also less ability to be infected. But since this is an isolated report, this does not necessarily mean that vaccination attempts are futile.” .
For his part, Benjamin Newman, a professor and head of the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Texas, told the South China Morning Post that the continuous mutation of the coronavirus only means that the vaccine will need periodic tests and updates. He added:
“The influenza virus is constantly changing at the same rate as the coronavirus, but we are able to successfully vaccinate against this moving target.”