Virus Mutations – What You Need to Know

All viruses mutate. As a virus replicates, its genes undergo random “copying errors” (i.e. genetic mutations).  The more the virus spreads, the more mutations.

Variant is a known virus that has developed a “specific group of mutations” that causes the variant to behave differently than that of the strain it originated from.

1-29-21 Latest news on Variants and New Vaccines – Ex CDC Director Tom Friedman 13 minute Podcast. very good explanations.

1-20-21 Excellent podcast What You Need to Know About the Variants 49 minutes, but worth the time. The best variant interview I have ever heard. Understandable and very well done. “So-called UK and South African variants to virologist Angela Rasmussen and evolutionary biologist Paul Turner. You’ll get answers about what the variants mean for the vaccines, how they affect kids, how to adjust your behavior in response to them, and much more.” Plus lots of references.

1-18-21 Good article, These coronavirus variants are keeping scientists awake at night List of many variants being studied.

1-15-21 Good article from Washingon Post- CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant to become dominant in U.S.

We are all worried about the SARS CoV-2 mutations, especially those that make it 50% or more transmissible. (This estimate seems to be going up almost every week.). All viruses mutate, including the flu viruses. The more a virus multiplies and spreads, the more errors in replication, making more variants. Virus Mutations – What You Need to Know

I listen to many podcasts, trying to find those that are not too basic or too technical. Below are four podcasts that I recommend. I preferred the first one and the last one. See which ones you like.

1-7-21 When the Virus Mutates. Coronavirus: Fact vs Fiction. 15 minutes.

The most understandable and practical explanation I have heard for what it means for you. One of my favorite podcasts, Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent.

New variants of the coronavirus are circulating around the globe and causing some concern among experts. In particular, one variant, B.1.1.7, is more easily spread from one person to another.  This new variant has already been identified in several states in the US. To understand how this will affect the pandemic, CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta speaks with virologist Angela Rasmussen. 


1-11-21 A Pandemic Update: The Variant and the Vaccine Rollout. 34 minutes (first 15 minutes on variants)

Very easy to understand. Non-technical speakers. Transcript and reference. Click here to read.

The first 15 minutes are about variants, with some discussion of other virus issues. The rest is about vaccine rollout issues. Some text discussion and references, including the estimate of about a 45% increase in transmission. From the New York Times The Daily Podcast. Virus Mutations – What You Need to Know

Understandable, non-technical speakers: Carl Zimmer, a science writer for The New York Times, and Abby Goodnough, a national health care correspondent for The  Times.

The two podcasts below are from Coronavirus (Covid-19) Q&A JAMA Network, one of my favorite Covid podcasts. The podcasts are physicians and the general public and are more technical than the two podcasts above.


1-8-21 Understanding the New SARS-CoV-2 Mutation Found in England

JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) 14 minutes Expert speaker, but understandable. The “big picture”.

The overall picture, what it means. Some technical terms but not too many. What to do now, for the public and clinicians.

Speaker Gregory Armstrong, MD, director of the Advanced Molecular Detection Program for the CDC, explains what is currently known about the new mutations of SARS-CoV-2. Topics include where it came from, why more transmissible,

2-14-19 Related article. Next-Generation Sequencing of Infectious Pathogens The speaker is one of the authors: Marta Gwinn, MD, MPH1; Duncan MacCannell, PhD2; Gregory L. Armstrong, MD2. Technical, but can help understand what the speaker is talking about. Virus Mutations – What You Need to Know

1-4-21 Understanding SARS-CoV-2 Genetic Variants


41 minutes Excellent understandable expert speaker. Adam Lauring, MD, Ph.D., from the University of Michigan Division of Infectious Diseases, an expert on RNA viruses’ evolutionary biology, explains the new genetic variants recently found in SARS-CoV-2 and their importance.

Technical speaker, but very good at explaining, using practical examples, why viruses mutate. Very interesting, how and why vaccines mutate.

For example, explains “founder” populations, where genes come from, using the first Native Americans, who crossed the Bering Strait to come to North America. The genes they had were passed on to descendants over many generations. A Covid example is someone (a founder) coming from England to the U.S. starting Covid to spread.

1-6-21 Related article discussing some of the topics in the podcast, but much more technical. It can help us understand the topics in more detail.: Genetic Variants of SARS-CoV-2—What Do They Mean? Written by the speaker and a co-author.

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