Updated: Sep 11, 2021
I am referring to the mutations in in the COVID-19 virus from the alpha variant to the more transmissible delta variant and the probability of more to come. This fourth variant is now the dominant variant globally, 40-60 percent more transmissible than alpha. This raises the question how the virus evolved in a very short time to a level of contagion that the world is desperately trying to contain?
The Institute for Emerging Pathogens of the Icahn School of Medicine in New York has a theory. The virus came into the world like a baby that had not yet learned about its potential. As mutations occur, those that make the virus “better” at what it seeks to do -- maximizing replicates -- are selected. Every time the virus replicates the better the chances that it will evolve further. In evolutionary terms success is dominance: the more replications the more dominant the virus becomes. To be sure, not all mutations are successful. Some weaken the process. But if the evolutionary aim is to maximize potential, those that serve this outcome will also lead to greater transmissibility in humans. The delta variant has twenty mutations, which is considered a high number in a virus that has evolved over a short time, and more are likely to appear.