Covid19 Mutates Slower Than The Flu
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Covid19 Mutates Slower Than The Flu

A coronavirus vaccine will most likely be effective for longer-term as the coronavirus seems to be mutating slower than the flu.

Experts who have been tracking the spreading of coronavirus have concluded that when compared to other respiratory viruses like the flu, the coronavirus mutates at a much slower rate.

There two positive implications of this slow mutation rate. The SARS-CoV-2 virus in its current form is stable and thus, it is unlikely to get more deadly. This infers that in the long-run, a vaccine can be effective.

At the Johns Hopkins University, a molecular geneticist, said that the difference between the strains that have infected people in the US and the original virus that spread in Wuhan, an analysis of 1,000 different samples of the new coronavirus revealed only four to 10 genetic differences

Thielen said, “The mutation rate of the virus suggests that at this point, rather than a new vaccine every year like the flu vaccine, the vaccine developed for SARS-CoV-2 would be a single vaccine.”

The coronavirus is more stable than the flu

Over time, all viruses mutate. The genetic code of the virus is constantly introduced with minute errors

as the virus replicates. A virus is broken into different strains by such mutations but this does not impact how the virus spreads or how contagious it is. However, through the human population, the movement of the virus can be tracked by the scientists using the information from these genetic errors. There have been subtle changes in the SARS-CoV-2 genome so far, but the virus appears the same everywhere. Each strain of the virus is almost identical.

At the University of Edinburgh, a molecular evolutionary biologist, Andrew Rambaut said that per month, SARS-CoV-2 accumulates an average of about one to two mutations. Compared to the flu, this virus mutates about two to four times slower.

At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Trevor Bedford, a scientist tweeted that the “flu mutates about once every 10 days across its genome”, which is much faster when compared to the Covid-19 virus. He wrote, most of those mutations are inconsequential, but one will appear that undermines people’s existing immunity to the flu occasionally. This the reason why flu vaccines aren’t always 100% effective and why we have to get a new flu shot every year.

An epidemiologist at Columbia University, Stephen Morse added, coronaviruses are somewhat less prone to mutation than flu on the whole. The novel coronavirus mutating every season is very unlikely.

A virologist at Texas A&M University at Texarkana, Benjamin Neuman explained, “Flu virus genome is broken up into several segments, each of which codes for a gene. The H1N1 ‘swine’ flu originated when a new combination was instantly formed when two flu viruses in the same cell swapped some segments.”

The coronavirus’ stability means a vaccine could be long-lasting

For the virus to significantly hinder a vaccine, it will take the virus a few years to mutate enough to be capable of doing so, tweeted Bedford, who is studying the coronavirus in Seattledicts.

The number of coronavirus vaccines in the works is more than 40. According to Bedford, a coronavirus vaccine will be effective in the body for a long time once it is created. This means that, just like the measles shot, which protects patients for life, the coronavirus vaccine is most likely to work.

Viral mutations are innocuous most of the time. However, the severity of an outbreak can be impacted by how the mutations help a virus infect more people or spread quicker. A mutation is likely what enabled this coronavirus to infect people by jumping from its host species to another animal and then to humans.

The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci said, “We are keeping a very close eye on the virus as it is capable of mutating and changing some of the ways that it performs, though we have not seen any type of change in the way it’s acting so far.”

Covid19 Mutates Slower Than The Flu


  1. Informative article. most of the cornaviruses outbreaks (like SARS, MERS) had a zoonotic origin. The zoonotic origin of COVID 19 is still to be ascertained. my question is whether the mutation rate is slow when we have human-to-human transmission or the virus, irrespective of its host mutates slowly??

  2. Very timely article,though presently based on empirical studies.Nevertheless,it does raise hope and our collective resolve to come up with our solutions
    India lagged behind other nations by not being part of Human Genome Project and therefore lost many advantages that could have accrued through being a part of it.
    Biotechnika is doing a good job in spread awareness.
    More articles will inspire enterprising youth.
    It may motivate inspired ones like me who have drifted away from this field of Biotechnology to the other fields,as the job opportunities were almost non existant
    Shashank Goel
    B.Tech ( Biotechnology) Summer training at shanth Biotech in 2008

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