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7 Nov, 2020 09:30

Top Russian scientists warn Covid-19 is mutating, but say changes to genome nothing to panic about & may even be beneficial

Top Russian scientists warn Covid-19 is mutating, but say changes to genome nothing to panic about & may even be beneficial

With Covid-19 infections increasing worldwide, probably the last thing humanity needs is for the virus to mutate and become even harder to beat. A top Russian expert warns that process is already happening, but he also urges calm.

Speaking to the Moscow news agency RIA Novosti on Thursday, Alexander Gorelov, the deputy director of the Central Research Institute of Epidemiology at Russia's state health watchdog, explained that the disease's genome has changed, but only very slightly.

“There are coronavirus mutations, but there is no aggravation of the infection,” Rospotrebnadzor's Gorelov said. “The mutation affects no more than one percent of the virus, so the currently available testing can detect the mutated coronavirus.”

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Last month, Siberia's Vector Center, the institution that produced the country's second registered Covid-19 vaccine, noted that they had detected more than 80 mutations of the virus. According to Rinat Maksyutov, the facility's general director, the changes aren't significant enough to affect the vaccine's effectiveness.

“We constantly perform whole-genome sequencing and detect possible mutant variants,” Maksyutov said. “These changes are not critical and do not influence the effectiveness of the peptide vaccine developed.”

In October, Russian epidemiologist Anatoly Altshtein suggested Covid-19 mutations could actually be “beneficial to humans” by contributing to the disease's apparent decrease in lethality, explaining that the change is unlikely to be merely due to “medical achievement.” According to Altshtein, the coronavirus used to kill between 10 and 15 percent of those it infected, but now the number is around 0.5 percent.

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