At least a dozen different strains of coronavirus were spreading in the UK in March, according to a government-funded study.
Leading genetic scientists have analyzed the genomes of the killer virus in 260 infected patients from all over the UK.
They say they have identified 12 unique lines of the virus, one of which has never been found except in Britain – which means it has mutated on British soil.
But the COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium (COG-UK) said that the number of strains “is most likely much higher” due to undersampling in the United Kingdom.
Scientists say most of the strains were imported from Italy and Spain, the most affected countries in the world at the time of the research.
There is no evidence that one of the strains is more potent or infectious than another, according to infectious disease experts.
Professor Paul Hunter of the University of East Anglia told MailOnline that it was “entirely plausible” that this could happen to one of the strains if it continued to evolve.
The report, released today, was released to the Government’s Scientific Emergency Advisory Group (Sage) in March to help it map the spread of the epidemic.
Other secret scientific evidence that helped shape the government’s response to the crisis has been released today. They revealed:
- Ministers were warned to lift the coronavirus lockdown and then reimpose the restrictions later would be viewed by the public as a “serious policy failure”;
- A traffic light system could be used to explain the new rules to the public when the lock is released, according to behavior experts;
- Scientists urged the government to tell people to stop shaking hands the same day that Boris Johnson boasted of shaking hands with “everyone”;
- Officials were told employers could avoid workers who had not had COVID-19 after the lockout, prompting people to actively try to get the disease.
There are at least a dozen different strains of coronavirus ravaging the UK. The most common is strain B.12.1 (pink) and strain B.11 (green). The researchers did not specify which strains were imported from other countries, or disclose which is unique to Britain.
There is no suggestion that one strain is more potent or infectious than another, experts say. In the photo: illustration of the new coronavirus by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
New COVID-19 mutation suggests disease is weakening
Scientists have discovered a unique mutation of the coronavirus in Arizona – and this is a pattern they have already seen.
One of 382 samples they took from coronavirus patients in the state lacked a significant segment of genetic material.
In the intermediate and late stages of the SARS epidemic in 2003, this same type of suppression began to appear in patients worldwide.
It’s not just any mutation – the change deprives the closely related viruses of one of their weapons against the host’s immune response, making the infection weaker.
As this mutation became widespread, the SARS epidemic stopped. In July – five months after its appearance in Asia on February 23 – there were no new cases, and the epidemic was deemed contained.
Now, Arizona State University experts have found only one person who had a version of the virus with this mutation – but they say that if coronavirus genome sequencing becomes more common, we could find many more. .
They sequenced the virus’s genomes in 382 nasal swab samples. Like ours, viral genetic material is made up of chemical units known by their letters.
The human genome is made up of three billion “letters” of DNA. Viral genomes are much simpler than ours, and the coronavirus is made up of 30,000 letters of RNA.
In one of the samples they collected, ASU researchers discovered that 81 massive letters were missing. And it was a particularly significant missing 81 RNA.
“This is something that we saw before during the 2003 SARS epidemic during the intermediate and late phase of the epidemic, the virus has acquired large deletions in these SS3 proteins,” said Dr. Efrem Lim, lead author of the study, at DailyMail.com.
“These proteins are not only there to replicate – they are there to help improve virulence and suppress the immune system [of the host]. It evolved with a later mitigation of the end of the epidemic. “
In other words, the SARS virus has changed to become weaker (attenuated viruses are the least risky modified versions that researchers use in laboratories as the basis for vaccines) over time.
And now at least one sample of SARS-CoV-2 had done the same.
The researchers did not specify which strains were imported from other countries, or disclose which is unique to Britain.
All viruses mutate slightly as they spread through populations, causing small changes in their genetic material.
Scientists say the virus does this to overcome the resistance of the immune system in different communities.
As part of the study, COG-UK researchers analyzed patients in Belfast, Birmingham, Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Norwich, Nottingham, Oxford and Sheffield.
They found 12 unique strains, most of which had been imported from Europe. The report did not specify which countries, but said the majority of the cases came from Italy. She found that strains also came from China, the United States and Australia.
Professor Hunter told MailOnline, “There are a number of problems with these strains – are they likely to cause different severity of the disease? Are they likely to be more contagious? And are they able to invalidate the vaccines?
“The answer to these three questions is that we have no idea. There is no suggestion from this study – or any other that I have read – that shows that these strains are more virulent or infectious than each other.
“But it is plausible that a strain could mutate to the point that people with antibodies against an older strain are no longer immune to it.
“They are called escape mutants because they are beyond the control of immunity.
“It often happens with the flu. The current coronavirus doesn’t seem to do this as quickly, but it is plausible down the line.
Professor Hunter said the main value of the report was that it was helping scientists track the spread of the infection across the UK.
He said it would become crucial when the lock was lifted.
Professor Hunter added, “It allows researchers to keep track of where it is going and to help apply new rules to stop another outbreak.
“Suppose you have a cluster in the North West of England, which is unexpected, and it’s the same strain that you find mainly in London, then you could see that it must have been propagated by someone one from the capital.
“You can use this to find out if someone has broken the lock rules by going there, or you can close a possible transmission pass [a train line, for example]. ‘
Britain now has the highest coronavirus death rate in Europe: official figures show 32,000 people in the UK died of the infection on April 24 – and the actual number may now be closer 45,000
Sir Patrick Vallance told MEPs: “But many cases in the UK have not come from China and have not come from the places you expected”
People returning from other hot spots like China and a cruise ship off Japan were placed in camps for 14 days in late February, including one at Arrowe Park in Wirral (photo from February 22).
THE MINISTERS HAVE BEEN ADVISED THAT THE LIFTING OF THE LOCK AND REPOSITION MEASURES WILL BE CONSIDERED AS A “SERIOUS FAILURE”
The ministers were warned by their expert scientific advisers that the lifting of the coronavirus lockdown and the reimposition of restrictions thereafter would be viewed by the public as a “serious policy failure”.
Secret documents recently released show that government scientists have come out in favor of a very slow easing of the measures.
They said that if the lock was lifted “suddenly”, people would expect the risk of infection to have “stopped or significantly decreased”.
If there were a spike in cases and the government had to reimpose the foreclosure, the nation would lose faith in expert advice and be much less likely to stick to the rules.
COG-UK is an innovative partnership of NHS organizations, the UK’s four public health agencies, the Wellcome Sanger Institute and more than 12 academic institutions, including the University of Cambridge.
It is supported by £ 20 million in funding from the UK Department for Health and Social Affairs (DHSC), UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the Wellcome Trust.
It is possible that overwhelming new figures today reveal that Britain has quarantined only 273 of the 18.1 million people who arrived in the UK in the three months before the coronavirus shutdown.
Occupants of three flights from the Ground Zero epidemic in the Chinese city of Wuhan and one bringing passengers home from a Japanese cruise ship were the only people to take secure facilities the UK.
But millions of others entering the UK between the start of 2020 and March 22 were able to enter freely and only advised to isolate themselves, according to figures obtained by the Guardian.
It came as it also appeared that the United Kingdom suffered a “significant influx” of coronavirus from arrivals from Italy and Spain which were not quarantined.
MINISTERS ARE REQUESTED TO INDICATE PEOPLE TO STOP SHAKING HANDS ON THE SAME DAY BORIS JOHNSON BENEFITED TO DO IT WITH “EVERYONE”
Scientists are urging the government to tell people to stop shaking hands the same day that Boris Johnson bragged about shaking hands with “everyone”, we learned today.
Recently released documents on advice given to the government during the coronavirus crisis show that Mr. Johnson apparently flouted the recommendations of his own experts.
A behavioral group meeting that feeds SAGE on March 3 concluded that “the government should advise against greetings such as handshakes and hugs, given the existing evidence on the importance of hand hygiene.”
“A public message against the handshake has additional value as a signal about the importance of hand hygiene,” said the Independent Pandemic Influenza Scientific Panel on Behavior (SPI-B).
“Promoting an alternative greeting or encouraging others to politely refuse an offered handshake can be beneficial. “
Covid-19 genome mapping shows that British cases come from all over the world, chief scientist Sir Patrick Vallance told MEPs.
But a large number of cases at the start of March came from Europe and “sowed their way across the country” because Britons arriving in the UK were allowed to return home.
Giving evidence to the Health and Welfare Committee this morning, Sir Patrick said experts from the Scientific Emergency Advisory Group (Sage) had informed ministers that they should be “extremely draconian” to block travel from whole countries otherwise “it really was”. not worth a try.
“Whether it is people returning from mid-term, business travelers or not, we do not know,” he told MEPs.
“But many of the cases in the UK did not come from China and did not come from the places you expected.
“They actually came from European imports and the high number of trips to the UK at the time. “
Over the weekend, a senior minister finally confirmed that visitors to the UK may face a quarantine period as the government “actively” plans to tighten anti-coronavirus measures at the borders.
Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps said newcomers may also be forced to download a new contract app to their smartphones as a condition of entry.
New restrictions would make the UK one of the last countries to introduce them, the country being much more aberrant in recent weeks by not interrupting incoming flights or insisting that arrivals be checked.
EMPLOYERS MAY CHANGE WORKERS WHO HAVE NO COVID-19, ENCOURAGING PEOPLE TO TRY TO DISEASE
Employers could avoid workers who have not had a post-COVID-19 lockout, prompting people to actively try to get the disease, warned government science experts.
Secret documents prepared by the Independent Pandemic Influenza Behavioral Panel (SPI-B) last month highlighted the drawbacks of the introduction of antibody tests and so-called “immunity certificates”.
Such tests would show if someone has had the disease and if they have a certain degree of immunity with digital certificates then showing employers the health status of the staff.
Antibody tests are seen as one of the key pieces of the puzzle when it comes to getting the UK back to work.
SPI-B, part of the Scientific Emergency Advisory Group (SAGE), said the introduction of the tests could get people to try to “play” the system.
He said workers who don’t have antibodies could be discriminated against, effectively creating two categories of employees, with those who have had the disease prized because of the belief that they won’t fall ill again.
Those without antibodies could then try to get false test results or even try to get sick voluntarily to return to work.
The documents also warned that positive tests could lead people to mistakenly think that they no longer need to wash their hands, which could increase the transmission of the disease.
Those who are negative for antibodies may also be too afraid to leave their homes and refuse to return to work, the group said.
Those arriving are currently asked to isolate themselves, but there is no mandatory test.
Interior Minister Priti Patel is said to be among those who demanded tougher rules for foreign visitors and British residents abroad who make it their home.
But Sir Patrick suggested that stopping travel was of limited use unless action was taken against a wide range of countries.
“What was very clear, and I think you can see it now in retrospect, is that the idea that you can control this by stopping travel from one place only works if it is of course the only source of import, “he said. this morning.
“We have now sequenced 13,6000 viral genomes in the UK, we have obtained imports from everywhere.
“So, very early on the advice that Sage gave was” if you’re going to do something while traveling, you have to be extremely draconian – stop all travel from all kinds of countries – or it’s really not worth trying to do it, to try to stop at a place because you will not get there ”.
“So I think the answer is not, unless the country chooses to, stop traveling anywhere and … make sure that when people come back, you have adequate systems to isolate yourself and make sure they follow the same rules as the rest of the country. country.’
The Associate Chief Physician, Dr. Jenny Harries, who also testified, added, “There are advantages and disadvantages that are not necessarily always evident, I think, between managing the influx and the departure of passengers but also goods.
“If you close travel routes, you also close routes for various products that can be essential, not only for our people, but around the world.
“For the time being, most people who return come back to the UK and will be immediately subject to social distancing regulations anyway.”
A Chinese study claims that the coronavirus has mutated to become much more deadly in Europe than the milder strain that made its way to the west coast of the United States.
There could be up to 30 different strains of coronavirus, according to a study of patients in China.
Scientists at Zhejiang University studied a small number of patients with the disease and discovered dozens of mutations – 19 of which had never been seen before.
Some mutations have increased the ability of the virus to invade cells in the body, others have helped the disease to multiply more quickly.
The deadliest strains were genetically similar to those that have spread in Europe and New York, the South China Morning Post reported.
Meanwhile, the weakest strains were similar to those found in circulation in other parts of the United States, such as Washington State.
The authors say their results – based on only 11 patients – are the first to show that the mutation could affect the severity of the disease.
They believe that previously unreported mutations could be the reason behind the devastating toll in Europe and New York.
It is still unclear why the aggressive strain of COVID-19 spread to Europe and the milder version spread across large areas of the United States.
But scientists say that viruses are constantly mutating to overcome the resistance of the immune system in different populations.
This graph shows the deadly strain that hit Europe (in blue) and the mild strain that hit most of the United States like Seattle (in orange)
It follows studies that claim the United States has been affected by two different clusters of coronaviruses, type A dominating the west coast and type B the deadliest in New York.
Experts say the type A epidemic spread to the United States from China, while the crisis in New York probably came from Europe – which was also shaken by type B.
For the latest study, published on the medRxiv.org prepress service, the team analyzed the viral strains of 11 Chinese coronavirus patients.
The team, led by Professor Li Lanjuan and his colleagues, tested the virus’s effectiveness in infecting and killing human cells in the laboratory.
The viral load – the amount of virus – was assessed in all cells after one, two, four and eight hours, as well as the next day and 48 hours later.
And the experts also looked at the cytopathological effects – if the virus structurally changed the cell during infection – up to three days after the experiment.
The most aggressive strains created up to 270 times more viral load than the least potent type, according to the results.
And the strains that produced the highest viral load led to a “higher cell death rate,” said Professor Li and his team.
In their article, 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. “
This table presents the epidemiological information on the 11 strains analyzed in Chinese coronavirus patients
The most severe strains could generate up to 270 times more viral load than the weakest variations. In the photo: illustration of the new coronavirus by the CDC
The team found some of the deadliest mutations in Zhejiang, where the university is located.
These mutations had also been seen 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 widely found in the United States, including Washington State, which could be the strain that stopped Wuhan, where the virus originated.
But scientists admitted that the virus’s “complete mutational diversity in Wuhan at the start the days are 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 studied had obvious links to Wuhan, the city where the pandemic started in December.
All patients – ages four months to 71 years – recovered. Eight were men and three were women.
Two patients from Zhejiang, one in their thirties and one in their fifties, fell seriously ill after contracting weaker strains.
Although both patients recovered, the older patient had to be treated in the intensive care unit of a hospital.
Some of the deadliest mutations have been Zhejiang, where the university is located, as well as in several European countries
The researchers detected around 30 mutations in total. About 60% of them, or 19, were new.
The authors say that patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, 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.
“The development of drugs and vaccines, although urgent, must take into account the impact of these accumulated mutations … to avoid potential pitfalls,” said the researchers.
Worldwide, more than 2.45 million people have been infected and more than 168,000 people have died.
In the United States, there are more than 771,000 confirmed cases of the virus and more than 41,000 deaths.