Glimmer Of Hope: Mutated COVID-19 Virus Strains Shows Little Variability

London: Here’s some ‘good news’. The SARS-CoV-2 virus is showing little variability despite having at least six strains, a study published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology said. It is claimed to be the “most extensive” study carried out on SARS-CoV-2 sequencing drawn from analysing of 48,635 coronavirus genomes. These were collected from labs all over the world.

The mutations and spread of the virus were mapped by researchers at the University of Bologna in Italy. The study found that the COVID-19 virus has little variability of approximately seven mutations per sample. Common influenza’s variability rate is more than double of that.

“The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is presumably already optimised to affect human beings, and this explains its low evolutionary change,” said Federico Giorgi, a researcher at the University of Bologna, and coordinator of the study. “This means that the treatments we are developing, including a vaccine, might be effective against all the virus strains,” he explained.

Out of the six main strains, the original one from Wuhan in December 2019 is the ‘L’ strain. The first mutation, the ‘S’ strain, appeared at the beginning of 2020. After mid-January, strains’ V’ and ‘G’ have been found, the study said.

Strain ‘G’ has been the most widespread, and it has mutated into strains ‘GR’ and ‘GH’ at the end of February. “Strain ‘G’ and its related strains ‘GR’ and ‘GH’ are by far the most widespread, representing 74 percent of all gene sequences we analysed,” said Giorgi.

“They present four mutations, two of which are able to change the sequence of the RNA polymerase and Spike proteins of the virus. This characteristic probably facilitates the spread of the virus,” he explained. The researchers have found some infrequent mutations that, they believe, are not worrying at the moment but need to be monitored.

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