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article imageOp-Ed: Evidence is against a different strain of more-virulent COVID-19

By Tim Sandle     May 9, 2020 in Science
London - Some media reports infer that there is more than one strain of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. New evidence suggests this is not the case. Although all viruses mutate, this is not, as yet, leading to more virulent forms.
This is the sixth opinion-led post about the novel coronavirus. The topic here is topic
There have discussions that the virus has mutated. New research from the UK Medical Research Council and the University of Glasgow has concluded that there is no evidence that the SARS-CoV-2 virus has mutated into different forms. This has been reported to the journal Virus Research. The paper is titled "No evidence for distinct types in the evolution of SARS-CoV-2." The researchers advise against overinterpretation of genomic data during the pandemic.
This finding is important, because there had been discussion that more than one type of SARS-CoV-2 was circulating in the pandemic. Furthermore, there were some initial suggestions that one strain being was more aggressive, in terms of triggering a serious illness, compared with another strain.
Additional research, published in the journal Virus Evolution, further indicates that there is only one strain circulating.
The issue is not to become confused with viral mutation and new virus strain. Viruses do naturally accumulate mutations in relation to their genetic sequence, which happens as the virus moves through populations. These mutations do not, however, have any impact upon viral biology and hence the aggressiveness of the disease caused.
Specifically with SARS-CoV-2 (the novel coronavirus of concern) the detected mutations are not likely to have any functional significance. Also to be clear – these are not different virus types.
This analysis is based on an assessment of what viral mutations entail - amino acid replacements, insertions and deletions. This has been drawn from an analysis of 7,237 mutations. While this is a big number, it actually represents a relatively low rate of evolution for this type of virus – which is an RNA virus.
The message I’d like to convey is that people should not be concerned about virus mutations - these are normal and expected as a virus passes through a population.
Further details about the novel coronavirus and mutations are discussed in the following video:
As a second point, it is also worth turning attention to the discussions about where the coronavirus originated form – whether it was created in a laboratory in China, as the President of the United States appears to believe, or whether the virus has come to infect people through zoonotic transfer.
To be clear immediately – there is no evidence that the virus was created in a laboratory, and the assertions by President Trump are ill-founded. This is based on an analysis of genome sequence data relating to both SARS-CoV-2 and similar coronaviruses. Further details are provided in Nature Medicine and the paper titled “The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2.”
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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