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Emergence of SARS-CoV-2 variants: a great challenge of the pandemic

Mutations to the SARS-CoV-2 genome, particularly to those sequences responsible for the spike protein on the viral surface, are causing concern. Recent research has looked at the findings of studies undertaken over the past 12 months.

Researchers recently published an in-depth look at the SARS-CoV-2 mutations that have taken place during the past year in the Journal of General Virology.1 The review discusses the findings of over 180 research articles and follows the changes that have taken place in the SARS-CoV-2 genome, and the variants that have occurred as a result.

Research has identified that a number of SARS-CoV-2 variants have emerged from immunocompromised hosts. It is thought that variants of concern – including B.1.1.7, a variant first identified in Kent – were a result of long-term infection in people with a weakened immune system. Persistent infections in immunocompromised people could cause the virus to mutate more frequently because the person’s immune system cannot clear the virus as quickly as the immune system of a healthy person.

Authors Professor Wendy Barclay, Dr Thomas Peacock, Professor Julian Hiscox a

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International Convention Centre, Birmingham
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