How coronavirus mutated and eight strains raced around the world after initial outbreak in China as global cases top 660,000 and deaths hit 30,847

Sunday, March 29, 2020
By Paul Martin

Scientists around the world have been sequencing virus DNA to track the spread
There are eight strains identified, but all are very similar with tiny variations
Experts say that no strain appears to be more lethal than any of the others
It’s also highly unlikely that the virus could mutate into a more lethal strain
Coronavirus appears to mutate very slowly, giving hope for long-lasting vaccine
Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

29 March 2020

Scientists around the world are tracking at least eight strains of coronavirus around the world, using genetic detective work to show how the virus spreads.

Researchers say the virus appears to mutate very slowly, with only tiny differences between the different strains, and that none of the strains of the virus is more deadly than another.

They also say it does not appear the strains will grow more lethal as they evolve.

‘The virus mutates so slowly that the virus strains are fundamentally very similar to each other,’ Charles Chiu, a professor of medicine and infectious disease at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, told USA Today.

However, scientists around the world have been able to compile their genetic sequencing data at, generating a map that tracks how the deadly virus has raced around the world.

Tracking the different strains of SARS-CoV-2, as the virus is officially named, allows scientists to see whether containment measures are working, by showing whether new cases are from community spread, or imported from a different hotspot.

Chiu said his analysis shows California’s strict ‘stay at home’ efforts appear to be working.

He said that only 20 percent of the genomes he has sequenced in the past two weeks appear to come from community spread in California. The rest are associated with travel out of state, or tied to healthcare workers or family members of known cases.

Researchers stress that the different strains are fundamentally similar, because coronavirus mutates very slowly, about eight to 10 times slower than the common flu.

So far even in the virus’s most divergent strains scientists have found only 11 base pair changes, out of a genome of 30,000 base pairs.

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