COVID-19: virology, variants, and vaccines

Young, M., Crook, H., Scott, J. and Edison, P. (2022) COVID-19: virology, variants, and vaccines. BMJ Medicine, 1(1), e000040. (doi: 10.1136/bmjmed-2021-000040)

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As of 25 January 2022, over 349 million individuals have received a confirmed diagnosis of covid-19, with over 5.59 million confirmed deaths associated with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The covid-19 pandemic has prompted an extensive global effort to study the molecular evolution of the virus and develop vaccines to prevent its spread. Although rigorous determination of SARS-CoV-2 infectivity remains elusive, owing to the continuous evolution of the virus, steps have been made to understand its genome, structure, and emerging genetic mutations. The SARS-CoV-2 genome is composed of several open reading frames and structural proteins, including the spike protein, which is essential for entry into host cells. As of 25 January 2022, the World Health Organization has reported five variants of concern, two variants of interest, and three variants under monitoring. Additional sublineages have since been identified, and are being monitored. The mutations harboured in these variants confer an increased transmissibility, severity of disease, and escape from neutralising antibodies compared with the primary strain. The current vaccine strategy, including booster doses, provides protection from severe disease. As of 24 January 2022, 33 vaccines have been approved for use in 197 countries. In this review, we discuss the genetics, structure, and transmission methods of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants, highlighting how mutations provide enhanced abilities to spread and inflict disease. This review also outlines the vaccines currently in use around the world, providing evidence for every vaccine's immunogenicity and effectiveness.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Scott, Dr Janet
Authors: Young, M., Crook, H., Scott, J., and Edison, P.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Infection & Immunity > Centre for Virus Research
Journal Name:BMJ Medicine
Publisher:BMJ Publishing Group
ISSN (Online):2754-0413
Published Online:11 April 2022
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2022 The Authors
First Published:First published in BMJ Medicine 1(1): e000040
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons licence

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