A new study shows that the dominant strain of the novel coronavirus, now spreading across the US, had mutated from the original strain that emerged in Wuhan, China and it appears to be more contagious, according to a media report.
A report published by CNBC on Tuesday said that this new strain had began spreading in Europe in early February then made its way to other parts of the world including the US and Canada. It became the dominant strain globally by the end of March, according to researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
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“This is hard news,” Bette Korber, a computational biologist at Los Alamos and lead author of the study, reportedly wrote on her Facebook page.
“But please don’t only be disheartened by it,” she continued. “Our team at LANL was able to document this mutation and its impact on transmission only because of a massive global effort of clinical people and experimental groups, who make new sequences of the virus (SARS-CoV-2) in their local communities available as quickly as they possibly can.”
The researchers warned that if the coronavirus does not subside in the summer, “it could mutate further and potentially limit the effectiveness of vaccines being developed,” according to the report. They also said this is of “urgent concern” as more than 100 vaccines are in the process of being developed to prevent COVID-19.
While this new strain may be more contagious, a more aggressive and deadly strain was found to be more prevalent in the early stages of the outbreak in Wuhan, where the virus first emerged, according to the CNBC report.
The group of researchers have so far identified 14 mutations.
The novel coronavirus has so far infected 3,682,968 people globally and has killed 257,906 as of Wednesday. Meanwhile, 1,207,548 people have recovered so far.