Tuesday, January 26, 2021
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Mutations of the virus: a researcher fears a return to square one

#Quebecers can hope for a significant relaxation of anti-COVID-19 measures within six months, provided that the vaccines developed resist new mutations in the virus, believes Dr #Guy #Boivin.

• #Read also: COVID-19: the end of the pandemic in 2021?

The holder of the #Canada #Research #Chair in #Emerging #Viruses is crossing his fingers, like everyone else, for vaccination to bear fruit, but he does not yet dare to claim victory. #He fears possible mutations in the virus that could wipe out part of the efforts made by the scientific community in 2020.

“Viruses have not finished surprising us. They can mutate and vaccines can become ineffective and force us to start over, ”warns the CHUL researcher in an end-of-year interview with #Journal.

“Pretty much every vaccine that is being developed right now has the same target: the spike protein on the surface of the virus. #If there are mutations at this level, it is not a single vaccine that will not work, but all the vaccines. ”

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#Fortunately, science has made “giant strides” in the past nine months and the development of RNA vaccines is now proceeding rapidly. “#We can turn around quite quickly,” he puts into perspective.

#New variants of the coronavirus, discovered in recent weeks in #England and #South #Africa – whose presence in #Quebec has now been established – are under the magnifying glass of scientists. #If they seem more contagious, nothing suggests, for the moment, that they would have an impact on the effectiveness of vaccines.

The importance of an antiviral

#That said, the Dr #Guy #Boivin insists on the importance of continuing to work on the development of remedies, in parallel with vaccination. #Some people will not be able to receive the vaccine, due to contraindications, and other people will refuse it, he recalls. “I take the example of the flu: we have vaccines, but we also have antivirals like #Tamiflu. There is room for both. ”

“#When you look at it coldly in retrospect from the start of the pandemic, there isn’t much that has been shown to be effective in terms of treatment other than dexamethasone and maybe remdesivir, I say ‘can -being ”because there are contradictory studies”, he laments.

A future seasonal virus?

#Unlike SARS, the new coronavirus – which is easily transmitted – will not go away, he believes. #We will therefore have to learn to live with it in the coming years, even if collective immunity, once reached, will make it possible to limit the damage.

“It could become a seasonal virus, a bit like the flu. #Maybe we will have to revaccinate at varying intervals. #Sometimes the protection is not complete, as we can see with influenza, but severe forms of the disease are prevented. #Basically, that’s what we want. “

– #With the collaboration of #Dominique #Lelièvre

#What #Doctor Béliveau thinks

The immune response to the virus is very robust, with the production of several neutralizing antibodies that target different portions (epitopes) of the virus. #Consequently, even if a mutation of the virus allowed it to escape the action of one of these antibodies, other regions of the virus would continue to be accessible to other neutralizing antibodies (this is moreover the principle behind the #Regeneron cocktail, which contains two monoclonal antibodies to retain its neutralizing action in the event of virus mutation).

The statistical probability of simultaneous mutations of the protein structure in several different places to escape all the neutralizing antibodies, while preserving the infectious potential of the virus, is relatively low. The coronavirus spicules are its entry route into our cells, the molecular key that it has developed during its evolution to optimize its infectivity, by interacting with the ACE2 receptor on our cell surfaces. #An in-depth modification of this structure has a very good chance of abolishing at the same time its infectious potential and there is no evolutionary pressure to promote this type of mutations, the virus would harm itself, reducing its capacity reproduction!

#Three questions to Dr #Boivin on the pandemic

#What do you think about the speed of vaccine development?

“That’s a pleasant surprise. #If it’s going well and it’s as effective as they say it’s a giant leap forward. #It’s never fast enough for people, but you have to realize that before developing a vaccine, it could take ten, even twelve years, then there, within a year, we’ll have three, four or five approved vaccine candidates. #It’s a shame to say, but it took a pandemic to accelerate the development of some things. #It’s a bit like during certain wars: the development of certain technologies has been accelerated. The pandemic had somewhat the same effect. “

#Were you surprised by the scale of the pandemic?

“Me, I never imagined living with a mask all the time, except at home or at my office. #Not to touch anyone, not to shake hands with anyone, I never imagined that … #When we talk about a big pandemic, we all have in mind that of the #Spanish flu in 1918-1919 and everyone said to each other: “We will not live what we went through then because now we have intensive care, antibiotics, ventilators, fluids and we know how to give vaccines.” #So, honestly, a pandemic of this magnitude, I never thought of that. “

#Should we expect other pandemics in the future?

“There are going to be more, for sure. I don’t want to scare people, but it’s just a matter of time. #With the human population increasing, the animal population also increasing, with the open-air markets in #Asia, and when you consider that people go around the planet in less than 48 hours, it is sure to be there may be other threats with respiratory viruses in the future. ”

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