How do virus mutations happen, and what do they mean? | Ohio State Medical Center

writer : Mahdee Sobhanie, MD

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Editor’s note: As what we know about COVID-19 evolves, so could the information in this story. Find our most recent COVID-19 blog posts here, and learn the latest in COVID-19 prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

As we see more fresh variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, more questions have emerged about how mutations happen to create these variants, and what we can do to control the COVID-19 pandemic as this virus evolves.

Are virus mutations normal ?

Mutation is part of being a virus. Viruses mutate to adapt to their surroundings and more effectively move from host to master of ceremonies. Mutations can cause viruses to better evade our immune systems, treatments and vaccines. A mutation can help the virus advance traits that better help it reproduce quickly or stand by better to the surface of human cells.

Are viral mutations always a bad thing ?

Sometimes, viruses can evolve or mutate so cursorily that it doesn ’ metric ton help them develop traits that are advantageous to infection. It ’ sulfur why we sometimes see a virus mutation that seems to emerge and then die off.

however, viral mutations can be dangerous, specially if they become much better at evading the defenses of our immune systems, or if they can overcome the treatments or vaccines available to us. We used to have more options available to treat influenza, for example, but as the influenza virus has mutated, it began to evade those treatments. now, we have limited therapies that are effective for treating an infection. It ’ mho why we always encourage patients to get their influenza shots to prevent infection in the beginning place and avoid creating a scenario where more mutant could occur. That said, each year the influenza presents new variants that our current vaccinations weren ’ triiodothyronine developed for. That ’ s how you can get a influenza vaccine and still get the influenza.

How do we identify new variants ?

New variants are discovered through something called genomic sequence. Researchers take COVID-19 PCR test samples and “ sequence ” the genome of the virus in a serve that looks more profoundly into that sample than the typical PCR screen does.

This happens all over the worldly concern, but here at Ohio State, scientists have been sequencing SARS-CoV-2 virus genomes since March 2020. It helps us monitor how COVID-19 is evolving and determine whether new variants are more ancestral or infectious than older variants.

Are we going to see new COVID-19 variants everlastingly ?

It ’ mho hard to predict when or for how long we ’ ll see new variants of SARS-CoV-2.

What is crucial to stop COVID-19 from spreading is doing our separate in getting vaccinated and boosted when eligible, and wearing masks in herd areas where residential district unfold of COVID-19 is more likely. Populations with first gear inoculation rates provide viruses with an opportunity to enhance its ability to infect others.

What can we do to control the pandemic when variants emerge ?

Everyone should get vaccinated and boosted when eligible, and wear a mask. The majority of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated. Mutations are more likely to occur when COVID-19 is allowed to replicate, and one room to stop the spread and replication of COVID-19 is to get vaccinated.

Mohammad Mahdee Sobhanie is an infectious diseases specialist and medical director of the Outpatient Parenteral Antibiotic Therapy Program at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. He ’ sulfur besides an assistant professor of Internal Medicine and course of study director of the Infectious Diseases Fellowship Program at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.

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