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UAMS research finds COVID-19 has mutation limits

A research team at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences has found COVID-19 has limits to its ability to mutate into different variants.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A research team at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences has found COVID-19 has limits to its ability to mutate into variants as it has with delta and omicron.

The report uses global databases with millions of COVID-19 genomes, which show that COVID-19 has a "limited genetic range for new mutations."

The team is led by Dr. David Ussery and their findings have been published in FEMS Microbiology Reviews.

In addition to the limit on dangerous variants, the SARS-CoV-2 limited mutations should also be beneficial to drug and vaccine developers who are working to thwart it, UAMS said.

“The surprising finding is that the virus is pretty stable, and it is not changing that much,” said Dr. Ussery, who is a professor and the director of the Arkansas Center for Genomic Epidemiology & Medicine at UAMS.  

“It’s somewhat restricted. That’s good news for designing drugs that can fight it effectively.”

Dr. Ussery said this is good as it means there's less to worry about all at once.

"Coronavirus, as it turns out, is very boring to look at. It's not changing that much," Dr. Ussery said. "So the bottom line is that it's not mutating all over the place like other viruses are, so we can take comfort in that."

According to a statement from UAMS, the research team analyzed coronavirus genomes in GenBank and Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data (GISAID) databases, as well as a UAMS-based computer known as GRACE to perform much of the computational work.

“I think our SARS-CoV-2 findings are breaking some new ground, helping people see the big picture with a systematic look at the virus’ genomics,” Dr. Ussery said. 

“We now have several million genomes and that allows us to tease out the variance within different lineages that are causing major outbreaks like delta and omicron.”

    

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