The world is racing to create a vaccine for COVID-19 or the viral infection brought upon by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, popularly known as the novel coronavirus that is currently inflicting suffering to the world.
However, one coronavirus mutation strain that has been recently discovered in India--it could potentially hinder vaccine development for coronavirus.
A Coronavirus Mutation Strain is Isolated
According to a report by BGR, the coronavirus mutation strain has become so severe that it could threaten the current COVID-19 vaccine work, which would derail and delay the process that the whole world is counting on.
In a study, researchers from Taiwan and Australia explained that the coronavirus strain that was isolated in India mutated and manifested on the spikes that the COVID-19 virus had, which it uses to hook itself to a healthy cell.
"The observation of this study raised the alarm that Sars-CoV-2 mutation with varied epitope [something an antibody attaches itself to] profile could arise at any time," the researchers wrote. "[This] means current vaccine development against Sars-CoV-2 is at great risk of becoming futile."
The mutation removed a hydrogen bond from the protein spike, which makes the virus bind less to ACE2 receptors that are found in the lungs and other organs of the body.
How it Affects the COVID-19 Vaccine Development
Researchers around the world are studying the various mutations and strains from the original variant of the new coronavirus, but nothing is as severe as what is explained in this study, mainly since it manifested in the protein spikes of the virus, which was unheard of in other parts of the world.
Nevertheless, the review hasn't been peer-reviewed yet, which means the study may contain errors or may not be accepted by the community.
However, if the research is accurate, it could indeed threaten vaccine development as many of these targets the protein spike of the virus, which means patients that have the same coronavirus mutation strain may not benefit from such vaccines.
It is possible that the researchers encountered a technical error during the sequencing process, which might have caused the result.
Based on the report, it appears that the coronavirus sample was taken from a patient in Kerala back in January, but was only sequenced last month.
Furthermore, the patient was a medical student from Wuhan, China, where the COVID-19 outbreak allegedly started, but the strain acquired from the patient doesn't seem to have a close connection with the strains found in the region.
The worst-case scenario is that the coronavirus mutation would continue and become more severe, meaning scientists would have to continue researching and developing new vaccines that could fight the disease.
Working to Find the Answer
For now, the world can do nothing but wait and hope that safety precautions like social distancing and encouraging everyone to stay indoors could mitigate and stop the spread of the disease.
According to TIME, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that there are currently 70 COVID-19 vaccine candidates that are presently being developed and that three of them are already in human trials.
Nevertheless, the latest we could get our hands to a vaccine is next year.