There are approximately 4,000 mutations of Covid-19 in the world right now, according to the UK’s vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi.
Speaking to Sky News on Thursday, Zahawi said researchers are tracking how the virus evolves and Pfizer, BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca are among the manufacturers working to improve their vaccines “to make sure we are ready for any variant.”
He said: “There are about 4,000 variants around the world of Covid now. We have the largest genome sequencing industry – we have about 50% of the world’s genome sequencing industry – and we are keeping a library of all the variants so that we are ready to be able to respond, whether in the autumn or beyond, to any challenge the virus may present, and produce the next vaccine so we can always protect the United Kingdom and of course offer it to the rest of the world as well.”
Some context: Professor Ravi Gupta, Professor of Microbiology at the University of Cambridge, said UK vaccine minister was not referring to variants “as we have come to know them.”
“Rather he is referring to individual mutations," Gupta said, noting that, "many mutations emerge and disappear continuously. Scientists are using ‘variants’ to describe viruses with mutations that are transmitting in the general population – there aren’t 4,000 of those.”
Scientists are not surprised to see the coronavirus evolving but new variants first identified in the UK, Brazil and South Africa are worrisome as they appear more transmissible. Here's what we know about them.
CNN went inside the British lab helping to identify and trace the spread of variants in the UK.
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