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Do experts find it plausible that the mRNA of the COVID-19 vaccines could be integrated into human DNA?

This article was published on
June 21, 2021

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The threat of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines influencing your DNA are almost non-existent.

The threat of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines influencing your DNA are almost non-existent.

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What our experts say

You shouldn’t worry about COVID-19 mRNA vaccines changing your DNA. The two current COVID-19 mRNA vaccines contain a form of the virus' genetic material, but it is unlikely that any of it would mix with your own genetic materials.   DNA is an acronym for deoxyribonucleic acid, the set of genetic instructions in all living things. DNA is like recipe for creating and sustaining a living organism.   The Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are made with another type of genetic material called messenger ribonucleic acid (RNA), also known as mRNA.   The vaccines use a small piece of mRNA so the body can use those instructions to make a protein from the COVID-19 virus. The production of this protein helps us launch a defense against the foreign invader.   But the difference between DNA and mRNA is important because they are different types of genetic material. DNA is composed of two wrapped strands called a double helix. These strands are tightly bundled, very long, and are found in the nucleus of the cell. mRNA is single-stranded and it contains a copy of a small part of DNA. mRNA degrades quickly, much faster than DNA, which is why the vaccines have to be shipped and stored at very cold temperatures.    When mRNA vaccines are injected into arm muscles, the shots tell the human body how to make a protein of the COVID-19 virus. They do not tell our bodies how to make the entire virus. The synthetic mRNA from the vaccine is rapidly broken down by the body's cells, so it doesn't remain in the body for long.   Some researchers suggest that genetic material from the COVID-19 virus may accidentally get incorporated into our own DNA when a person is infected. Other researchers point out that the COVID-19 virus can exist in your body long after your initial infection without integrating its genetic material. It is currently only theoretically possible for mRNA to integrate with human DNA during a COVID-19 infection.

It is less likely for this to occur after an mRNA vaccine injection, where the viral mRNA from the vaccine rapidly disintegrates until it disappears.

Context and background

Recent scientific journal articles have described how RNA from vaccines can integrate with human DNA. Two recent studies have picked up significant media attention because of their focus on this topic, which has revealed potential new pathways for genetic material from viruses to integrate into human DNA while a person is infected with COVID-19. However, this was a laboratory study and didn't occur in people with actual COVID-19 infections. No vaccinated participants took part. There has been no direct relationship between people who have been vaccinated with COVID-19 mRNA vaccines and the types of genetic changes suggested in those recent studies.

Resources

  1. Reverse-transcribed SARS-CoV-2 RNA can integrate into the genome of cultured human cells and can be expressed in patient-derived tissues (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America)
  2. Further evidence supports controversial claim that SARS-CoV-2 genes can integrate with human DNA (Science)
  3. Polθ reverse transcribes RNA and promotes RNA-templated DNA repair (Science Advances)
  4. New discovery shows human cells can write RNA sequences into DNA (ScienceDaily)
  5. Adenoviral Vector DNA- and SARS-CoV-2 mRNA-Based Covid-19 Vaccines: Possible Integration into the Human Genome - Are Adenoviral Genes Expressed in Vector-based Vaccines? (Virus Research)
  6. Will a COVID-19 vaccine change my DNA? (BioNews)
  7. Covid-19 Vaccines Can’t Alter Your DNA, Here’s Why (Forbes)
  8. Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) (United States National Human Genome Research Institute)
  9. Messenger RNA (mRNA) (United States National Human Genome Research Institute)
  10. Understanding mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines (United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

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