Coronavirus Variants – What They Mean

2021 has brought news of emerging SARS-CoV-2 genetic variants that increase transmissibility. Will they diminish vaccine efficacy and leads us to lose pandemic control? @Michigan Medicine’s Adam Lauring, MD, PhD, a molecular virologist who uses evolutionary theory to study viral transmission and pathogenesis, joins JAMA’s Q&A series to explain the variants and what they mean for public health.

Read Dr. Lauring’s “Genetic Variants of SARS-CoV-2—What Do They Mean?”

Topics discussed in this interview:
0:00 Introduction
1:12 What are RNA viruses?
2:50 Is emergence of variants a surprise?
3:33 What is a variant?
4:48 Why labs identify variants
6:18 Sequence and epidemiological data
8:12 Virus evolution
10:13 Testing for vaccine effectiveness against variants
13:26 What blood serum testing misses
14:41 Will COVID-19 continue for extended time
16:54 Vaccine targets
18:22 Universal flu vaccine
19:36 Children’s vulnerability to new variants
21:16 Viral shedding and variants
21:59 Surveillance systems and central repositories
23:17 Have variants reached the US
25:03 Capacity to test for variants
26:37 Different vaccine approaches and variants
28:08 Live attenuated virus vaccines
29:10 Modeling escape mutations
30:22 Coronavirus birthday cake
31:49 Speed of vaccine development

Recorded February 4, 2021.

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