According to scientists closely studying the coronavirus’ genetic code, the virus does not seem to be mutating significantly as it makes its way through the human population. So what does that mean? The virus’ relative stability suggests that a vaccine, when created, will likely be long-lasting (like vaccines we all should receive as children, such as measles and chicken pox). This is good news for scientists who now hypothesize the virus is not likely to become more or less dangerous as it spreads.
“I would expect a vaccine for coronavirus would have a similar profile to those vaccines. It’s great news,” Peter Thielen, a molecular geneticist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory who has been studying the virus, told The Washington Post. It will probably be about a year to 18 months before a COVID-19 vaccine is available to the public.
Several vaccines against COVID-19 are in development, but experts estimate it will be at least a year to 18 months before one becomes available.
Two other virologists, Stanley Perlman of the University of Iowa and Benjamin Neuman of Texas A&M University at Texarkana, both of whom were on the international committee that named the coronavirus, agreed that the virus appears relatively stable.
“The virus has not mutated to any significant extent,” Perlman said.
“Just one ‘pretty bad’ strain for everybody so far,” Neuman added.
Although one team of scientists suggested there might be two distinct strains of the virus with different levels of severity, their theory has not been embraced by the scientific community.
“So far, we don’t have any evidence linking a specific virus [strain] to any disease severity score,” Thielen said. “Right now, disease severity is much more likely to be driven by other factors.”