Scientists have discovered that CORONAVIRUS has mutated 30 times with the deadliest strain infecting Europe.
Researchers at Zhejiang University in China say the killer virus has evolved into several different strains since it spread from animals to humans in December.
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And they claim that the deadliest strains are the ones that spread quickly across Europe.
It comes as the United Kingdom is on the verge of becoming the most affected country in Europe – with coronavirus deaths yesterday reaching 16,509.
The authors say their results are the first to reveal how the mutation could affect the severity of the disease.
Scientists believe that the virus – known as Sars-CoV-2 – is constantly changing to overcome the resistance of the immune system in different populations.
The researchers made their revelation after having evaluated the viral strains of 11 Chinese coronavirus patients.
The team, led by Professor Li Lanjuan, tested the virus’s effectiveness in infecting and killing human cells in the laboratory.
The amount of virus, nicknamed by experts as viral load, was analyzed in all cells after one, two, four and eight hours, as well as the next day and 48 hours later.
And experts also explored whether the virus had structurally altered the cell during the infection, known as cytopathic effects, up to three days after the experiment.
They found that the most aggressive strains created up to 270 times more viral load than the least lethal type.
And Professor Li and his team have revealed that the strains that produce the highest viral load lead to a “higher cell death rate”.
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Writing in the study, published on medRxiv.org, the team said, “Our results show that the mutations observed can have a direct impact on viral load and the EEC.
“This discovery suggests that the mutations observed in our study … may have a significant impact on the pathogenicity (the ability to cause disease) of SARS-CoV-2. “
Scientists have discovered some of the deadliest mutations in Zhejiang, where the university is located.
These strains had also been observed in several hard-hit European countries such as Italy and Spain – before spreading to the American epicenter New York.
However, some of the milder mutations were the varieties mainly found in the United States, including Washington State, which may be the strain that closed Wuhan, the city where the pandemic started in December.
Despite this, the researchers pointed out that “the full mutational diversity of the virus in Wuhan in the early days is still unknown”.
The researchers warned that it was not because the mutations were milder that the risk of death was low.
Ten of the 11 patients involved in the new study had obvious links to Wuhan, where the virus originated.
Eight of the patients were male and three were female and all participants, aged four months to 71 years, recovered.
Two patients from Zhejiang, one in their thirties and one in their fifties, fell seriously ill after contracting weaker strains.
As the two patients recovered, the older patient needed treatment in the intensive care unit of a hospital.
Scientists have discovered about 30 strains in total and about 60% of them, or 19, are new.
The authors say that patients with Covid-19 received the same treatment in the hospital, regardless of the strain they suffer from.
They say the strains may require different efforts to fight the virus, which mutates monthly, scientists say.
They added: “The development of drugs and vaccines, although urgent, must take into account the impact of these accumulated mutations … to avoid potential pitfalls. “
Professor Ian Jones, professor of virology, University of Reading, said it was “not surprising” that the new study found that mutations had an effect on the properties of the virus.
He said, “Coronaviruses generate mutations as part of their normal replication. That some of them would affect the properties of the virus is not surprising.
“However, this is a laboratory study, a description of the possibilities, it does not deal with the way in which the virus moves in the human population where many factors, generally summarized as” aptitude “of the virus , apply at the same time.
“So far, virus monitoring has shown no trend towards version 2 of the virus.
“Rather than being distracted by potential mutants, we must remain focused on detecting and treating the virus as we find it today.
“At our expense, the virus is colonizing the human population well enough, I don’t see the desire to make it even more wicked anytime soon.” “
In the UK, 124,743 people have tested positive for the coronavirus, while the death toll currently stands at 16,509.
However, earlier today, shocking new figures revealed that the number of coronavirus deaths in the UK may be 40% higher than previously reported.
New statistics show that there were 13,121 deaths in England and Wales until April 10 – up from 9,288 announced at the time.
The difference is due to deaths outside the hospital – including in nursing homes, hospices and private homes – as well as delays in the registration of deaths.
According to statistics, 83.9% (8,673 deaths) occurred in the hospital, while 18% (1,662 deaths) were recorded outside.
Of the 1,622 deaths outside the hospital, 1,043 died in nursing homes, 466 in private homes, 87 in hospices, 21 in other communal facilities and 45 elsewhere.
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The total number of deaths in nursing homes doubled in the four weeks following the first death of Covid-19 in the UK.
During that week, before the spread of the coronavirus, just under 2,500 residents of nursing homes died from various causes.
This increased by almost 100% in the week before April 10, as the epidemics of Covid-19 spread to nursing homes.