Highlighting a few articles from the leading journal, Science:
- Age groups that sustain resurging COVID-19 epidemics in the United States | Science (sciencemag.org) In this February 2nd article, researchers from the US, UK and Denmark have tracked the rates of COVID-19 transmission from more than 10 million individuals in the US since the resurgence of the virus this fall. They found that more than 65% of the COVID infections in the US originate from persons 20-49, making this age group the main age groups sustaining this increase in COVID cases.
- Recurrent deletions in the SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein drive antibody escape | Science (sciencemag.org)
Scientists in Pittsburgh and Boston seek to answer questions about how and why the Sars-CoV-2 virus adapts and mutates. Some interesting highlights:
- Coronaviruses actually mutate more slowly than other RNA viruses, this is due to a proof-reading feature in the virus’ polymerase, which is a protein that makes copies of the virus’s genetic material.
- The virus’ Spike protein on the outside of the virus capsule is the part of the virus mainly responsible for the virus entering cells. In this study, the scientists discover that recurring deletions in this protein are the method that corona viruses use to overcome this otherwise slow mutation rate.
- As we’ve seen in the news these COVID variants with parts of the spike protein deleted arise independently in many different geographic regions and transmit to other people efficiently.
- These deletions frequently are in parts of the viral Spike protein that are binding sites for different antibodies, which can cause the virus to become resistant to these neutralizing antibodies which help fight infections.
Daunting news, but as in everything, there is hopeful news. The current COVID-19 pandemic has advanced our ability to produce vaccines, particularly the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines which are the first mRNA vaccines to be developed. These vaccines carry man-made copies of snippets of the virus genetic blueprint, and then our own body can make small pieces of the viral spike protein and thus produce antibodies without ever being exposed to the actual virus. Because of the way these vaccines are produced, the vaccine manufactures can produce the mRNA to these variants – thus accelerating our ability to adapt to the virus’ adaptations. Gotta love science 😊.