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Slow Change

NPR reports that SARS-CoV-2 does not seem to accumulate mutations quickly, to the relief of vaccine developers.

While analyses of various SARS-CoV-2 genomes have uncovered differences, NPR notes that the genomes of the viruses circulating now are highly similar to the ones published at the beginning of the year. "To date, there have been very few mutations observed," Peter Thielen from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory tells it.

NPR notes that researchers had been concerned about the possibility that SARS-CoV-2 could mutate quickly, as viruses closely related to coronaviruses often do. The University of Basel's Emma Hodcroft tells NPR that she suspects SARS-CoV-2 will fall between the highly changeable flu and the consistent measles viruses in terms of its mutability. She adds that that may mean that a new SARS-CoV-2 vaccine might be needed every few years to keep immunity up.

"We haven't really seen the full diversity of how the virus can mutate," she adds there. "It gathers mutations over time. We can't speed up time, so we just have to wait and see."

The Scan

Machine Learning Helps ID Molecular Mechanisms of Pancreatic Islet Beta Cell Subtypes in Type 2 Diabetes

The approach helps overcome limitations of previous studies that had investigated the molecular mechanisms of pancreatic islet beta cells, the authors write in their Nature Genetics paper.

Culture-Based Methods, Shotgun Sequencing Reveal Transmission of Bifidobacterium Strains From Mothers to Infants

In a Nature Communications study, culture-based approaches along with shotgun sequencing give a better picture of the microbial strains transmitted from mothers to infants.

Microbial Communities Can Help Trees Adapt to Changing Climates

Tree seedlings that were inoculated with microbes from dry, warm, or cold sites could better survive drought, heat, and cold stress, according to a study in Science.

A Combination of Genetics and Environment Causes Cleft Lip

In a study published in Nature Communications, researchers investigate what combination of genetic and environmental factors come into play to cause cleft lip/palate.