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Continuous coronavirus mutation obstacle to vaccine: Dr Ghazala Rubi

Medical expert says COVID-19 changing its shape, species geographically

SAMAA | - Posted: May 15, 2020 | Last Updated: 2 years ago
Posted: May 15, 2020 | Last Updated: 2 years ago

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The novel coronavirus has claimed more than 300,000 lives worldwide and health experts fear that more lives will be lost unless a vaccine is developed.

While health organisations claim it will take at least a year to develop a vaccine, countries are experimenting with various drugs, but none of them have proven to cure the virus completely.

Dr Ghazala Rubi, the coronavirus lab testing focal person for Pakistan, told SAMAA TV anchor Ali Haider on Thursday that the virus is continuously mutating.

She said COVID-19 changes its shape and size as is travels to different regions to adjust to the atmosphere. This, she says, is the prime reason the world is struggling to find an effective cure or a vaccine.

“The coronavirus tested in China’s Wuhan was in its first gene. When it traveled to Europe, it took on another gene and now it is in its third gene,” Dr Rubi said.

She oversees hundreds of coronavirus tests every day. The doctor explained that Pakistan is testing all genetic structures of the virus, but she fears that the virus is ready to change its gene for the fourth time.

COVID-19 has a size of 0.5 micron and is packed inside a membrane of fat and protein. Doctors advise washing hands for at least 20 seconds so that the virus is completely swept away from the skin.

Dr Rubi said detecting a common structure of the virus will be a major breakthrough in developing the vaccine. However, even if a vaccine is developed, it might not be able to protect people from all forms of the coronavirus.

When the coronavirus first broke out in Wuhan at the end of 2019, the common symptoms were a dry cough, difficulty breathing and fever.

Now, patients are complaining of newer symptoms like diarrhoea, headache, loss of taste or smell, rashes and discolouration of fingers or toes. The health expert believes this is another con of a virus that changes its species with time.

“Our next target is finding a common sequence of the virus’ spread among people in a certain location,” Dr Rubi added.

She said the doctors she is working with are also educating people about the virus and asking them not to get scared if they contract it.

“People in Pakistan are afraid that death is certain if they’ve been infected with COVID-19, but that’s not true. Several people, even those above 50 or 60, are recovering and improving their health so there’s no need to panic.”

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