The current SARS-CoV-2 pandemic is wreaking havoc throughout the world and has rapidly become a global health emergency. A central question concerning COVID-19 is why some individuals become sick and others not. Many have pointed already at variation in risk factors between individuals. However, the variable outcome of SARS-CoV-2 infections may, at least in part, be due also to differences between the viral subspecies with which individuals are infected. A more pertinent question is how we are to overcome the current pandemic. A vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 would offer significant relief, although vaccine developers have warned that design, testing and production of vaccines may take a year if not longer. Vaccines are based on a handful of different designs (i), but the earliest vaccines were based on the live, attenuated virus. As has been the case for other viruses during earlier pandemics, SARS-CoV-2 will mutate and may naturally attenuate over time (ii). What makes the current pandemic unique is that, thanks to state-of-the-art nucleic acid sequencing technologies, we can follow in detail how SARS-CoV-2 evolves while it spreads. We argue that knowledge of naturally emerging attenuated SARS-CoV-2 variants across the globe should be of key interest in our fight against the pandemic.
© 2020 The Authors. Environmental Microbiology published by Society for Applied Microbiology and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.