A new variant of Sars-Cov-2 has just been detected in England. For now, it is not known if it is having an impact on the epidemic.

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Covid: should we be worried about virus mutations?

In the United Kingdom, nearly 1,000 patients are already believed to be carriers of this new mutation in the virus that causes Covid. So far, the British authorities want to be reassuring. There is no evidence to suggest that it would worsen the disease or compromise vaccination. The mutation of viruses is indeed a completely normal process.

At the origin of errors during virus infection of our cells

Virologist Dr Jean-François Saluzzo explains: “when I make a photocopy, I am sure to bring out the identical document. When someone transcribes by hand, if you give it to 10,000 people, there will be mistakes, that’s for sure. This is exactly what happens with viruses. They do not have the means to correct the mistakes they make. A virus, when it reads, it can make mistakes, and those mistakes will stay naturally. ”

When a virus infects our body, it first enters a cell and releases its genome, which is RNA. The RNA will replicate and this is when the virus can be modified and have new characteristics. These mutations allow the virus to adapt to our immune system and survive.

A mutation in the virus’s Spike protein

The mutation observed in England relates in particular to the Spike protein, which envelops the virus. This protein is very useful for the action of vaccines and it is this protein that allows the virus to attach itself to our cells. According to Dr. Jean-François Saluzzo, the mutations in this protein are not important. “It’s not just a point mutation that will disrupt this binding mechanism, so it’s not because there is a mutation in this protein that there will be a drastic evolution of the virus”.

British health authorities have so far indicated that “Nothing suggested” that this mutation makes the vaccine less effective.