Coronavirus is mutating as at least EIGHT new strains of killer bug are identified – The Sun
Researchers say tracking how the virus is changing helps determine how it is also spreading.
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Thousands of genetic sequences of the virus have been uploaded to the open database NextStrain which shows how the virus is migrating and splitting into new subtypes.
Researchers say the data shows the coronavirus is mutating on average every 15 days, according to the National Geographic.
The latest figures show there have been just over one million people infected with the coronavirus with 54,198 deaths.
NextStrain co-founder Trevor Bedford said that the mutations were so small that no one strain is more deadly than another.
Researchers also believe the strains will not grow more deadly as they evolve.
Bedford told National Geographic: “These mutations are completely benign and useful as a puzzle piece to uncover how the virus is spreading.”
He added the different strains of the virus make it possible to track the transmission and how widespread it has become, indicating whether self-isolating policies are having an impact.
“We’ll be able to tell how much less transmission we’re seeing and answer the question, ‘Can we take our foot off the gas?” Bedford said.
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Charles Chiu, a professor of medicine and infectious disease at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, told USA Today that the strains were “trackable,” and “we have the ability to do genomic sequencing almost in real-time to see what strains or lineages are circulating.”
Most cases on the West Coast of the US have been linked to a strain first identified in Washington state, which is three mutations away from the first known strain, while on the East Coast, the virus seems to have come from China to Europe and then to New York, according to USA Today.
Kristian Andersen, a professor at Scripps Research, said the maps only show a snapshot of the full spread of the virus.
Andersen told USA Today: “Remember, we’re seeing a very small glimpse into the much larger pandemic.
“We have half a million described cases right now but maybe 1,000 genomes sequenced. So there are a lot of lineages we’re missing.”
Last month The Sun reported the coronavirus had "mutated" into two strains with the most aggressive infecting 70 per cent of patients.
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