SARS-CoV-2: How Fast is The Virus Changing and What does it Mean?
9 min read
fairly difficult
SARS-CoV-2 is mutating quickly relative to other viruses, but what does this mean for antibody and vaccine development? Are escape mutants already circulating in the population?
SARS-CoV-2: How Fast is The Virus Changing and What does it Mean?

About me: I am a PhD trained Immunologist / Biophysicist. Disclosure: I am the founder of a company that is developing SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies.

Today, July 26th, 2020, 16.5 million people have tested positive for the COVID-19 and 652,039 people have died. It has been 4 1/2 months since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic.

For comparison, Influenza typically causes 250,000 to 500,000 deaths annually.

The accuracy of how COVID-19 deaths are counted (or not) has been a matter of debate, I found this article instructive.

Scientific research, some excellent, some hastily done, has flooded the pre-print and peer review publication system at a rate of about 92 per day (Figure 1), making it difficult for experts and novices alike to decipher the trajectory of this pandemic.

Figure 1. Number of peer-reviewed SARS-Cov-2 research articles found using search term "SARS-CoV-2", hosted by as of 12 noon, July 26th, 2020.

In addition, mixed messages, and information that is often little more than conspiracy theory has been persistent in seeding confusion. As we experience a resurgence in COVID-19 cases, the simple question remains: Will we be able to get ahead of this virus?

From my perspective as an immunologist, the critical component of this question doesn't lie in how many doses of vaccines we can produce, it is whether we are producing the right vaccine, antibodies, or small molecules to tackle this rapidly changing virus.

Current Vaccines and Antibody Therapies: Will They Be Enough?

100,000-foot View Immunology Primer:

First, let's discuss how and why vaccines and antibody therapies work.

The immune system is comprised of the adaptive and the innate branches. The innate branch is typically non-specific to pathogens and works like a general barrier or protection system. Once a virus breaches the innate immune system's defences (skin, mucous membranes, as well as…
Melanie Matheu, PhD
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