I am trying to understand the following quote from one of the Twitter threads :

A change in the spike protein which allows the coronavirus to enter and infect human cells that is radical enough to make our vaccine completely ineffective would also, almost certainly, be so extreme as to make the virus non-functional. -- Sara Gilbert, Oxford Team.

What are the underlying principles that backs this claim?

  • 6
    $\begingroup$ In biology, especially molecular biology, a common and important principle is that the structure determines the function. If the structure of spike protein changes so drastically that antibodies cannot recognize it anymore, this would very likely mean that the part of the spike structure responsible for infecting the cells (by binding to cell receptors) has also changed, making it unable to bind to the cell receptors. Therefore, it would become "non-functional", as the author put it. $\endgroup$
    – Domen
    Nov 28 '21 at 18:09
  • $\begingroup$ See also: sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2666379121000410 (on non-evolution of vaccine escape mutants in measles) $\endgroup$
    – Ben Bolker
    Nov 28 '21 at 19:43
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Domen - That would make a good answer. $\endgroup$ Nov 28 '21 at 21:23
  • $\begingroup$ Does the quote refer to and include a situation where mutation is improvement of function, not deterioration? $\endgroup$ Jan 13 at 17:23

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