Experts have discovered that CORONAVIRUS has mutated into three separate strains to continue its deadly spread around the world.
Researchers who mapped part of the original spread of Covid-19 in humans say they have discovered that there are three different, but closely related, variants.
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They reconstructed the first evolutionary routes of the virus as it spread from the epicenter of Wuhan, China, Europe and North America.
By analyzing the first 160 complete viral genomes to be sequenced from human patients, the scientists found that the closest variant to that found in bats was widely found in patients from the United States and Australia – not from Wuhan.
Dr. Peter Forster, geneticist and lead author at the University of Cambridge, said, “There are too many rapid mutations to carefully trace a Covid-19 family tree.
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“We used a mathematical network algorithm to simultaneously visualize all the plausible trees.
“These techniques are mainly known for mapping the movements of prehistoric human populations through DNA.
“We believe this is one of the first times they have been used to trace the pathways of infection for a coronavirus like Covid-19. “
Experts believe that the virus – called SARS-CoV-2 – is constantly changing to overcome the resistance of the immune system in different populations.
They used data from samples collected around the world between December 24, 2019 and March 4, 2020.
Their results showed that there were three distinct, but closely related, variants of Covid-19, which they called A, B, and C.
The researchers found that the type of coronavirus closest to that found in bats – type A, the genome of the human virus – was present in Wuhan, but was not the predominant type of virus. city.
Mutated versions of A have been seen in Americans believed to have lived in Wuhan, and large numbers of type A viruses have been found in American and Australian patients.
The main type of Wuhan virus was B and widespread in patients from all over East Asia, but it did not travel much beyond the region without further mutations.
Researchers say variant C is the main European type, found in early patients from France, Italy, Sweden and England.
It is absent from the mainland sample of the study, but observed in Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea.
The analysis also suggests that one of the first introductions of the virus into Italy occurred via the first documented German infection on January 27, and that another route of early Italian infection was linked to a “Singapore cluster”.
Scientists say their methods could be applied to the latest coronavirus genome sequencing to help predict future global hotspots for disease transmission and outbreaks.
The results are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
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Variant A, most closely linked to the virus found in both bats and pangolins, is described as the root of the epidemic by researchers.
Type B is derived from A, separated by two mutations, then C is in turn a “daughter” of B, the study suggests.
The phylogenetic network methods used by the researchers – who examine the evolutionary relationships between biological entities – have made it possible to simultaneously visualize hundreds of evolutionary trees in a simple graph.