A new study raises questions about the impact of the antiviral drug molnupiravir (Lagevrio) on the evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. The study suggests that use of this drug could cause the virus to mutate in a specific way. But what does this mean for the global fight against the pandemic? Here are the key things to know.
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The drug in question, molnupiravir, works by causing mutations in the genome of SARS-CoV-2, which prevents the virus from replicate. Theo Sanderson, a researcher at Francis Crick (Francis Harry Compton Crick (born June 8, 1916 in Northampton, England and… ) Institute in London (London (in English: London – /?l?nd?n/) is the capital as well as the largest city…) and lead author of the study, emphasizes that their work demonstrates that molnupiravir can give rise to highly mutated viruses that remain transmissible. Moreover, certain mutations seem to help the virus evade the immune system.
To arrive at these conclusions, scientists analyzed more than 15 million SARS-CoV-2 genomes. They found that molnupiravir induces a specific “mutational signature” which, if the virus is not completely eliminated during treatment, can be transmitted to other people.
After the marketing of molnupiravir, this mutational signature was frequently observed in countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom, where the drug is widely used. Conversely (In mathematics, the inverse of an element x of a set provided with a law of…), countries like Canada, where the drug is not authorized, recorded fewer examples of this signature. Vaughn Cooper, a professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at The University of Pittsburgh, however, notes that the mutations themselves are not necessarily worrying. The important thing is to know if they allow the virus to spread better or to evade pre-existing immunity.
The implications of these findings for future treatment strategies remain unclear. Aris Katzourakis, professor of evolution and genomics at the University of Oxford, stresses that this information should be taken into account in decisions on the future use of the drug.
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