Covid-19 variants in SA: Your questions answered

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The Citizen

Why do viruses mutate?

Viruses – especially ribonucleic acid (RNA) viruses – constantly change and adapt through mutation. When a virus’ gene has one or more mutations, it’s called a variant of the original virus.

Dr Robert Bollinger, the Raj and Kamla Gupta Professor of Infectious Diseases at the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) School of Medicine, explains:

All RNA viruses mutate over time, some more than others. For example, flu viruses change often, which is why doctors recommend that you get a new flu vaccine every year,” he says.