Viral mutations, tiny mistakes with unforeseeable consequences

BIG DECRYPTION – Like all viruses, Sars-CoV-2 does not stop mutating, and some of these variations give it an advantage by allowing it to spread better, or to escape our immune system.

Instructions for use in a fat bubble. In short, that is what a virus is. Said in a more scientific way, a virus is genetic material (RNA for Sars-CoV-2) protected by a lipid membrane. In the case of the coronavirus, it is covered with small spikes, the spicules, made up of three identical proteins. They will be used to attach themselves to human cells, then to fuse their membranes so that the viral genetic material can penetrate inside the cell. The virus will hijack the cellular machinery to translate its proteins and build an army of clones.

But this process of “reproduction” is not perfect: an error regularly slips into the copies. Most of the time, this “altered” virus disappears as quickly as it first appeared. But it happens that it manages to replicate itself and then to infect new individuals: a mutant is born. Most mutations have no direct or measurable effect. If you

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