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Four new mutations: No cause to panic yet

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Kumudini Hettiarachchi – sundaytimes.lk

Prof. Neelika Malavige, Head of the Department of Immunology and Molecular Medicine, University of
Sri Jayewardenepura, told the Sunday Times that the SARS-CoV-2 virus mutates with time, as seen with many other viruses (such as influenza). The mutations become more frequent when there is higher transmission.

“One of the Delta mutations (A222V) is seen in many countries, another (A1078S) is found in Sri Lanka and Malaysia, while the other two (A701S and R24C) are only found in Sri Lanka. These are just mutations in the virus and that does not make these viruses new variants,” she said.

Prof. Malavige’s team carries out extensive genetic sequencing on test samples from COVID-19 positives.

She explained that most mutations have absolutely no significance and there are many unique mutations in the Alpha, Delta and Beta variants that are only unique to particular countries.

“We had identified many other mutations in the previous Alpha variant and in our variant of the Sri Lankan lineage (responsible for the 2nd wave), which were of no significance. Therefore, although some of the Delta variant viruses seen in Sri Lanka might have certain unique mutations, there is no reason to be alarmed,” she said.

Prof. Malavige added that these mutations are highly unlikely to have any effect on vaccine efficacy. “We are currently in touch with several international laboratories to find out if any of these mutations could be of particular interest and may be associated with faster spread. It will take time to find answers to these questions.”

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