The strain of coronavirus that appeared in Wuhan, the hardest-hit city in China, might have mutated from an earlier variant of the virus, according to the first genetic analysis of the virus evolution.
Researchers at Cambridge University who traced the origins of the pandemic by analyzing 160 genomes from human patients have identified three distinct strains of the deadly pathogen.
Dubbed as A, B and C, the three types have followed different paths throughout the globe, possibly because they have mutated to be more effective at infecting specific populations, researchers said.
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In an interview with China Global Television Network (CGTN) on Saturday, Geneticist Dr. Peter Forster, who led the research, said there was no proof that coronavirus originated in Wuhan.
The earliest known strain of the virus, termed by the scientists as "Type A", is commonly detected in the US and Australia. Type A is the ancestral strain and is most closely related to the coronavirus found in bats and pangolins.
The second type ‘B’ - which is most common in East Asia - is derived from ‘A’, and separated by two mutations, while ‘C’ is in turn a mutation of ‘B’.
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But interestingly, European nations are currently been hit largely by "Type C," which is not found in mainland China at all.
In fact, type ‘C’ is most common in Hong Kong, Singapore, and South Korea, suggesting that it has spread to Europe from those regions, the researchers said.
“Type A is the original type that would have affected humans. Then it mutated and changed into Type B. This Type B was then the first genome to be picked up in Wuhan, when the disease became apparent,” Dr. Forster said.
“Researchers might be forgiven for thinking at the time that B is the original type, but actually it’s not – it’s Type A, which in Wuhan is only a minority type, but B has become the majority type during the outbreak. That has mutated further into C. Now the C type is not found in the early phase of the outbreak in China. It is found outside, for example it is well represented in Singapore," he added.
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