Will the coronavirus continue to mutate? – KFYR-TV

BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) – In June, there were as few as three new COVID cases per day. Since then, cases have risen exponentially, in large part because of the Delta variant. The question is: can we expect more COVID mutations?

The very nature of viruses is that they mutate.

”This is like evolution in high speed, is what this virus is engaging with humans right now in real-time around the world,” said Dr. Noe Mateo, infectious disease specialist with Sanford Health.

SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes COVID, is an RNA virus, which is particularly susceptible to mutation. Dr. Mateo told Your News Leader in layman’s terms why RNA viruses mutate more than DNA viruses.

”When a DNA strand replicates or duplicates, there’s a proofreading mechanism where the two daughter strands are identical to the original strand. The deal, however, with RNA viruses, is that proofreading mechanism doesn’t exist,” said Mateo.

Because that “proofreading” mechanism is missing with RNA viruses, there are often errors in the replication system, which introduces mutations.

Experts say the best way to evade mutations is to stay vigilant to avoid contracting the virus.

“I think we’re seeing more and more people, when you look at, even within our state, more and more people are getting sick and it’s spreading a little more rapidly than it did in the past. So the Delta variant is something to definitely be concerned about as long as we have people who are hospitalized and dying from the virus,” said Brian Ament, pharmacy manager for Jamestown Regional Medical Center.

The bad news? As long as people continue to contract the virus, it will continue to mutate. The good news: the spread is avoidable.

Because of low vaccination rates in North Dakota and around the world, Dr. Mateo expects the virus to continue to replicate and mutate often. He says the more people get vaccinated, the less people will be infected, and ultimately the less opportunity the virus will have to mutate.

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