New variants of the Covid virus appear more infectious, and it’s urgent to get as much protective immunity into the population before these strains can take root. These new variants are evolving in ways that may allow them to slip past diagnostic tests, drugs and vaccines. The effort will require a new scientific and regulatory framework that allow countermeasures to be adapted and updated quickly as the threat evolves.
The recent variants don’t seem to make Covid infections more severe, but they do make the virus easier to transmit. Some have mutated part of the coronavirus spike protein called the receptor binding domain, which is a target of drugs and vaccines. This genetic evolution was inevitable. The virus has been racing around the world for a year. Countermeasures curtail its spread, but they also enrich the survival prospects of some mutant strains.
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