Ask the Rev. Doctor Maria

July 01, 2020
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The Rev. Dr. Maria Evans is serving as the Interim Rector at Christ Church in Rolla. She is also a pathologist, board certified in Anatomic and Clinical Pathology, a laboratory medical director, and has served on hospital infection control committees for over 30 years. 

During the coronavirus outbreak, The Rev. Dr. Maria is offering her expertise to help us understand and make our way through this unprecedented experience. If you have a question you'd like to ask The Rev. Dr. Maria, send an email to communications@diocesemo.org

 
 
I read something recently that there is now a new mutation of COVID-19 in the U.S.  Does this mean that we're back to square one in developing a vaccine?
 
The good news is that so far, the answer is "no."
 
A recent discovery has been that 70% of cases in March showed a single amino acid variant in COVID's genetic signature--aspartic acid was replaced with glycine.  This mutation is associated with virus that was transmitted to the US from Italy.  It's now the dominant genetic signature in most recent viral infections.
 
About the best explanation of the science behind it is at this link, and I apologize in advance that it's possibly behind the Washington Post paywall for anyone who has used up their 5 free articles for the month.  But the bottom line is this mutation allows the virus to attach better to cell surfaces and mutate more.  Although this variation doesn't make people any sicker than the original one, or have worse outcomes, it does allow the virus to replicate faster--which means that people infected by this variant shed considerably more viral particles and are more infectious than those who had the original virus.
 
Despite this discomforting news, the variant doesn't seem to respond any differently compared to the original virus when challenged by serum from patients with antibodies--so at least initial studies suggest that vaccines presently being developed will be effective.  That said, the fact it replicates more effectively and increases the number of viral particles in infected people, does pressure researchers to develop a vaccine as soon as possible because the implication is it can infect more people in a shorter time frame.
 
It's why it's more important than ever for us to stay home when we can, wash our hands, and wear masks in public--the predominant form of the virus now spreads faster and can cause spikes more quickly.
 
Faithfully,
The Rev. Dr. Maria Evans
who doubles as
Maria L. Evans, MD, FCAP, FASCP
 

This material is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. The Episcopal Church and its affiliates do not provide any healthcare services and, therefore, cannot guarantee any results or outcomes. Always seek the advice of a healthcare professional with any questions about your personal healthcare, including diet and exercise.

 

 

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