Studies have found new strains of coronavirus, and a mutated version of the virus in Brazil was found. For now, virologists aren't concerned.
New studies published over the past two weeks have suggested that the 2nd peak of coronavirus has come to an end, at least in China. But, the emergence of new coronavirus mutations increases the probability of a third peak.
In Brazil, virologists found a case of coronavirus mutated from the ancestral version of the virus.
According to David Heymann, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine’s infectious disease epidemiology professor, minor mutations in any ribonucleic acid virus are normal, and a single vaccine is likely to be enough for such mutations.
The mutated virus strain discovered in Brazil differs by three mutations from the reference strain in Wuhan, China.
So far, with alternative strains of coronavirus proving to be minor mutations, they is little probability that the new strains would cause a bigger outbreak in the near-term.
The problem lies in the possibility of more strains of coronavirus being discovered over time.
A study done by researchers at Peking University’s School of Life Sciences and the Institut Pasteur of Shanghai under the Chinese Academy of Sciences suggests that more strains of coronavirus could emerge in the future.
The researchers found two major strains of coronavirus, one more aggressive than the other. The more aggressive strain, called the “L Type” spread faster and affected more people, but it decreased after January.
As the study notes, the findings of the researchers are based on a small set of data. As such, it is difficult to conclusively prove the findings from the study just yet.
An excerpt read:
Of note, the above analyses were based on very patchy SARS-CoV-2 genomes that were collected from different locations and time points. More comprehensive genomic data is required for further testing of our hypothesis.
The study can be interpreted in two different ways; it could signal that more alternative strains of coronavirus could potentially be discovered, and it also could mean that scientists are beginning more data about the virus that would help with further containment.
The researchers encouraged comprehensive studies to be done in the short-term to investigate into their findings.
The study read:
These findings strongly support an urgent need for further immediate, comprehensive studies that combine genomic data, epidemiological data, and chart records of the clinical symptoms of patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Based on the data that has been released, it is too early and premature to speculate on whether the findings of new strains and mutations in Brazil would contribute to the expansion of the coronavirus outbreak outside of China.
Especially if the mutations remain minor, given the relatively high recovery rate of coronavirus patients in recent weeks, there is a strong possibility that the mutations would have minimal impact on the spread of coronavirus.
This article was edited by Samburaj Das.