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expert reaction to preprint looking at mutations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, finding no evidence for increased transmissibility

A preprint, an unpublished non-peer reviewed study posted on bioRxiv, looked at mutations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and found no evidence for increased transmissibility.


Dr Jonathan Stoye, a Senior Group Leader and Head of the Retrovirus-Host Interactions Laboratory, The Francis Crick Institute, said:

“This is a computational analysis, documenting on-going genetic changes in SARS-CoV-2. It strongly suggests that no variant with increased transmissibility has emerged to date.  

“However it would be highly desirable to test this conclusion in functional assays of frequently occurring variants and to pursue the molecular examination of the proposed mechanisms underlying the observed variation.  Although the conclusions of this study are reassuring it cannot rule out the emergence of new variants with different properties in the future.“


Prof Brendan Wren, Professor of Microbial Pathogenesis, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said:

““It is perhaps unsurprising that this study shows that at this stage, there is no evidence for the emergence of more transmissible lineages of SARS-CoV-2 due to recurrent mutations. Most of the human population are currently susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection so there is little selective pressure or driving force for the virus to mutate into a more transmissible or virulent form. However, in the future this may well change as a larger proportion of the human population become immune to SARS-CoV-2 infection, either naturally, or artificially through vaccination. This is why it’s important to continue to do these kinds of studies and monitor whether such changes occur.”


No evidence for increased transmissibility from recurrent mutations in SARS-CoV-2” by Lucy van Dorp et al. is on bioRxiv


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