This Game of Chance Could Curb COVID—or Send It Spiraling
It’s no surprise the novel coronavirus mutates. That’s what viruses do. What’s surprising about SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID, is that it mutates fast. And two years into the pandemic, it abruptly mutated really fast—and produced the Omicron variant, the descendants of which are still dominant all over the world.
The big question now is whether and when it happens again. Whether and when a fresh spurt of mutations produces a new variant that’s even worse than Omicron. There are reasons to worry the conditions are already there for another bout of accelerated evolution.
The novel coronavirus does mutate more quickly than other pathogens. “The current rate of antigenic evolution of SARS-CoV-2 exceeds that of other viruses,” Richard Neher, a geneticist at the University of Basel in Switzerland and a contributor to the NextStrain data consortium, told The Daily Beast. “I don’t think we understand the underlying reasons very well.”