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Virus mutations in Cebu not surprising, but further study needed, says expert

The detection of coronavirus “mutations of concern” in Cebu comes as no surprise as mutations are natural phenomena especially when the virus continues to spread, an infectious disease expert said on Saturday.

Dr. Edsel Salvana, director of the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the UP National Institutes of Health, said the mutations N510y and E484K in SARS-COV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19, still need further study.

“Ang mutations na ito ay makaka-impact sa virus na mas makakatulong na siya ay mas lumaganap. Ngunit preliminary pa lang ito at kailangan nating tignan kung ganoon nga ang behavior,” Salvana said in an interview on Dobol B sa News TV.

On Thursday, the Department of Health (DOH) Region 7 announced that the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) detected two coronavirus “mutations of concern” in samples from Cebu. 

DOH 7 spokesperson Dr. Mary Jean Loreche said 37 of 50 samples sequenced by the PGC showed the mutations E484K and N501Y in the COVID-19 virus.

“Itong mutations na ito lumalabas lang ‘pag continuous po ang reproduction ng virus,” Salvana said.

“The root thing that we really have to look para hindi lumabas ang mga mutation na ito ay mas lalong i-prevent ang paglaganap ng virus sa pamamagitan ng ating minimum health standards,” he added.

The infectious disease expert noted that virus mutations have a limit if its spread can be stopped.

“Natural phenomenon po ito. As the virus reproduces it mutates,” Salvana said.

“The best way to minimize is to control the spread if not completely stop it,” he added.

According to the World Health Organization, however, both N501Y and E484K mutations are common in the South African variant. 

On the concern that mutations are resistant to vaccines, Salvana said vaccines can be modified to be effective against the new emerging variants.

“Most of the vaccines ay gagana pa naman sa COVID-19 mutations... Kung nawawalan na ng bisa, puwedeng dagdagan ang kasangkapan ng vaccine,” he said. —KG, GMA News