Friday, 18 Sep 2020

Aussie researchers develop Covid-19 mutation tracking software to improve vaccine efficacy

SYDNEY (XINHUA) – Australian researchers have developed a new software to help tackle the problem of mutations in the Covid-19 virus, and guide the development of more effective vaccine to fight the virus.

On Wednesday (Sept 9), the team from Melbourne University revealed a new software program, dubbed Covid-3D, which harnesses genomic and protein information about the virus.

“Although the Sars-CoV-2 virus is a relatively new pathogen, its ability to readily accumulate mutations across its genes was evident from the start of this pandemic,” said project leader and Associate Professor David Ascher.

He explained that these mutations can affect the ability of vaccines and drugs to bind the virus or create a specific immune response against it.

“Because of this, scientists must not only try to control the virus, but outsmart it by predicting how it will change over time,” he said.

To develop Covid-3D, Prof Ascher and his team analysed the genome sequencing data of over 120,000 Sars-CoV-2 samples from infected people around the globe.

Using computer simulations, they tested and analysed the mutations’ effects on their protein structure, enabling the team to calculate all the biological effects of every possible mutation within the genome.

Furthermore, to help account for possible future variations, the team studied mutations in related coronaviruses Sars-CoV and Bat RaTG13.

So far, they found Sars-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19, has been mutating slower than other viruses such as influenza, with about two new changes in its genome every month.

Prof Ascher said he hopes Covid-3D will prove a powerful resource to predict problems with mutations and to guide the development of more effective therapies to fight the virus.

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