The importance of naturally attenuated SARS-CoV-2in the fight against COVID-19

Jean Armengaud, Agnès Delaunay-Moisan, Jean-Yves Thuret, Eelco van Anken, Diego Acosta-Alvear, Tomás Aragón, Carolina Arias, Marc Blondel, Ineke Braakman, Jean-François Collet, René Courcol, Antoine Danchin, Jean-François Deleuze, Jean-Philippe Lavigne, Sophie Lucas, Thomas Michiels, Edward R B Moore, Jonathon Nixon-Abell, Ramon Rossello-Mora, Zheng-Li Shi, Antonio G Siccardi, Roberto Sitia, Daniel Tillett, Kenneth N Timmis, Michel B Toledano, Peter van der Sluijs, Elisa Vicenzi
Environmental Microbiology 2020, 22 (6): 1997-2000
The current SARS-CoV-2 pandemic is wreaking havoc throughout the world and has rapidly become a global health emergency. A central question concerning COVID-19 is why some individuals become sick and others not. Many have pointed already at variation in risk factors between individuals. However, the variable outcome of SARS-CoV-2 infections may, at least in part, be due also to differences between the viral subspecies with which individuals are infected. A more pertinent question is how we are to overcome the current pandemic. A vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 would offer significant relief, although vaccine developers have warned that design, testing and production of vaccines may take a year if not longer. Vaccines are based on a handful of different designs (i), but the earliest vaccines were based on the live, attenuated virus. As has been the case for other viruses during earlier pandemics, SARS-CoV-2 will mutate and may naturally attenuate over time (ii). What makes the current pandemic unique is that, thanks to state-of-the-art nucleic acid sequencing technologies, we can follow in detail how SARS-CoV-2 evolves while it spreads. We argue that knowledge of naturally emerging attenuated SARS-CoV-2 variants across the globe should be of key interest in our fight against the pandemic.

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