A recent study has found that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that has caused the ongoing Covid-19 global pandemic, can boost its fitness using genetic recombination, a process in which genetic material of different species of coronavirus is exchanged to produce a new genetic variant of the virus. The study used phylogenetic tracking, one of the most effective and fastest ways to track the variants of the virus. This means that more future variants of the virus will be discovered in near future at a faster rate. The increased rate of discovery can help the nations to manage their vaccine strategy as the new variants can affect the efficacy of vaccines.
According to the research, alongside other mutations, recombination has been prevalent in the history of the evolution of RNA based viruses. However, the study published in BioRxiv, a preprint server for biology, is not yet reviewed by other scientists which means it cannot be regarded as conclusive. The study paves the way ahead in phylogenetic tracking of the virus variations, something which was called for by a group of scientists in a paper published in Nature in March 2021.
A large number of variants of the virus have been detected all over the world. According to media reports in February, over 24000 mutations of more than 7600 variants were detected in India itself. In a paper published in the Bulletin of World Health in June 2020, more than 65,000 variants of the virus had been detected all over the world as of February 2020.
COVID-19 cases are on a surge in India and the country is struggling with a severe shortage of oxygen and other medical supplies. India’s vaccination drive seems to be in disarray as despite being planned for all over India, only six states have been able to start vaccination for groups aged above 18 since May 1 due to a shortage in supply.