Is the coronavirus mutating? Yes. But here’s why you don’t need to panic

Tuesday, May 26, 2020 - 08:20 in Health & Medicine

In novels and movies, infectious pathogens mutate and inevitably become more dangerous. In the blockbuster movie Contagion, for instance, a deadly virus acquires a mutation in Africa that causes the global death toll to spike in mere days. Reality, however, is far less theatrical. Over the past few months, a few research groups have claimed to identify new strains of the coronavirus, called SARS-CoV-2, that’s infecting people around the globe. That sounds scary. But not only is it sometimes difficult to determine whether a change amounts to a “new strain,” none of the reported changes to the virus have been shown to make it more dangerous. This has led to great confusion for the general public. Each time such studies surface, fears arise, and virus experts rush to explain that changes in a virus’s genetic blueprint, or genome, happen all the time. The coronavirus is no exception. “In fact, it really just means that it’s normal,” says Kari Debbink, a virologist at Bowie State University...

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