The Wuhan-originated novel coronavirus that globally killed around 180,000 people so far, has mutated into at least 30 different genetic variations, according to a new study in China.
The study conducted by professor Li Lanjuan and others from Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, was published in a non-peer reviewed paper released on Sunday. The researchers have detected 30 different mutations out of which 19 were new and previously undetected.
The study revealed that healthcare practitioners have vastly underestimated the ability of the virus to mutate. Incidentally, Dr Anthony Fauci, the famous immunologist and the leading member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, very early on in his presentation about the virus to US President Donald Trump had stressed the rapid mutation of the virus.
This characteristic of the virus, makes it extremely challenging for scientists to find a cure for the disease Covid-19 attacking the respiratory system, which the virus causes. The Zhejiang university study shows that different strains have affected different parts of the world, which will make it even more difficult to develop a vaccine for it.
The research study is based on the analysis of the strains from 11 randomly chosen coronavirus patients from Hangzhou, which were tested for their potency to infect and kill cells. "Here we report functional characterizations of 11 patient-derived viral isolates, all of which have at least one mutation. Importantly, these viral isolates show significant variation in cytopathic effects and viral load, up to 270-fold differences, when infecting Vero-E6 cells," the paper said.
Li Lanjuan and his colleagues in the paper wrote, "Sars-CoV-2 has acquired mutations capable of substantially changing its pathogenicity." The aggressive strains killed the human cells fastest, the study said.
China claims to have only around 84,000 cases of infection and 4,636 deaths caused by the coronavirus so far.