The B-series science fiction of the middle of the last century popularized the term mutant, but surely not its biological meaning. For example, a character said: the mutants are coming, the mutants are coming!, And there began to appear a series of guys with grim eyes, strong torso and unfailingly bald, making a good noise. That's where their bad press comes from, but let's not forget that mutants are also the foundation of evolution. When the genome doesn't change, a species can be thrown 10 million years unperturbed like one of those French movies where you see grass growing, said Woody Allen. When the environment tightens, however, it is the mutants who save the species. If they do well, they become the dominant variety and displace the previous ones. This is what we are seeing in Europe with the British variant of the coronavirus
A mutation is nothing more than a change in the genetic sequence (gatacca becomes gacacca, for example). A single change in a text of 3 billion letters, in the case of the human genome. The first mutation discovered in a laboratory was white , which turned the normally red eyes of the Drosophila melanogaster fly into white, the one that usually sneaks into your bottle of vinegar and prowls around greengrocers. The legend of genetics holds that Thomas Hunt Morgan and his students had to chase it around their laboratory at Columbia University, New York, until they managed to capture it in a vial and let it reproduce. In a world where predatory birds only saw the color red, white mutants would have thrived. In our world, they are still a rarity, although very useful in laboratories.
From a SARS-CoV-2 point of view, emerging mutants are progress
From a SARS-CoV-2 point of view, emerging mutants are progress. The British variant spreads better than the standard one, and the South African variant can reduce recognition by our immune system, two qualities that give them an obvious evolutionary advantage. The variations are a big part of the reason the UK and Germany are cracking down on Easter week, because everything points to pushing a fourth wave up in Europe. But today is the good news.
An adapted version against the South African variant of Moderna's vaccine – one of those based on the groundbreaking technology of messenger RNA, or mRNA, which is very fast – has entered clinical trials this month . If it has, it is because certain previous results induce optimism. They indicate that people infected with the South African variant (B.1.351) develop a good immune response against other variants. The modified vaccine, which replaces the standard version of the key viral gene with B.1.351, is now seeking clinical evidence that it too works against this and other variants. If the signs are confirmed, the anxiety about the new variants will subside, but we will depend even more on the cruising speed of the vaccination campaigns. Let's try that before the de-escalation calendar.
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