The Science of Coronaviruses

Questions and Answers

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Could it be expected, that once a treatment or vaccine is found for the coronavirus, that it will evolve to fight the vaccine like other viruses?

Good question! The simple answer is YES. The virus will slowly change over time, meaning that its RNA genome will change with time as mistakes are made during the replication of the genome. If a mistake (i.e. mutation) is made in the gene encoding the spike – and if that mistake changes an amino acid that makes up part of the “epitope/antigen” that is being recognized by the antibody – then the antibody will no longer bind to the variant spike protein, and the virus will have escaped the surveillance by that antibody. This is what happens with the influenza virus and is why we need to get a new flu shot every year. This flu vaccine is updated each year to reflect the changing amino acid sequences of the protein epitope the antibody is designed to recognize.

Is the number and geometric pattern of spike proteins realistic?

Good question. Congratulations for being skeptical! I cannot afford myself the luxury of certainty with respect to what I am about to say, but here goes. I think the number of spike proteins shown on the model is about right. But that is not the case for the membrane proteins and the envelope protein. There are many more copies of these two proteins in a real coronavirus than we show in the physical model. (Remember that “all models are wrong.”)