Mutating coronavirus now has 8 strains The ​

Tuesday - 31/03/2020 06:33
SARS-CoV-2 (yellow) shown through a scanning electron microscope is mutating and now has eight strains. Picture: National Institutes of Health / AFPSource:AFP
SARS-CoV-2 (yellow) shown through a scanning electron microscope is mutating and now has eight strains. Picture: National Institutes of Health / AFPSource:AFP
Coronavirus is mutating and now has eight different strains according to researchers who say they are circulating around the world.

The coronavirus is mutating — as viruses do — and eight strains are now making the rounds globally, medical experts say.

The good news is that the mutations are not more lethal, said Trevor Bedford, whose website NextStrain.org is tracking the virus’s genome from samples provided to him from throughout the world.

Researchers are dissecting the genomes of coronavirus and discovering the strains that have emerged since the virus is thought to have first jumped from animals to humans in a wildlife market in Wuhan, China, late last year. The work shows how the virus is migrating and splitting into similar but new subtypes.

“In the literal sense of ‘is it changing genetically?’ the answer is absolutely yes,” Harvard University infectious disease epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch told NPR.

“What is in question is whether there’s been any change that’s important to the course of disease or the transmissibility or other things that we as humans care about.”

The strains emerging are only slightly tweaked, with no variations in lethality, experts said.

RELATED: Stay up to date with all the latest on coronavirus
 

SARS-CoV-2 (yellow) shown through a scanning electron microscope is mutating and now has eight strains. Picture: National Institutes of Health/AFP
SARS-CoV-2 (yellow) shown through a scanning electron microscope
is mutating and now has eight strains.
Picture: National Institutes of Health/AFPSource:AFP
 
A transmission electron microscope shows SARS-CoV-2, isolated from a patient in the US on February 27. Picture: National Institutes of Health/AFP
A transmission electron microscope shows SARS-CoV-2,
isolated from a patient in the US on February 27.
Picture: National Institutes of Health/AFPSource:AFP
 

“The observed rate of mutation (about two mutations per month) is completely normal for a virus,” Bedford wrote on Twitter.

“Flu and the common cold have similar mutation rates. Even a bit faster for flu.”

While the genomes retrieved so far are providing reassuring information about how the virus can be stopped and whether social distancing is working — indications are that it is — they do not provide more than a sketch, the experts said.

Scientists agree there is much more to be discovered.

But the microscopic changes are helping them map the pathogen’s pathway through the human population.

“The outbreaks are trackable,” Charles Chiu, a professor of medicine and infectious disease at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, told USA Today.

“We have the ability to do genomic sequencing almost in real-time to see what strains or lineages are circulating.”

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 Keywords: Coronavirus

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