New York, Even as researchers across the world work overtime to understand evolution of the virus that causes the disease COVID-19, scientists have identified at least eight strains of coronavirus doing the rounds globally.
Over 2,000 genetic sequences of the virus submitted from laboratories across the world to the open-source project Nextstrain.org show how the virus is migrating into new subtypes. According to a report in National Geographic, the data at the site, inluding samples from every continent except Antractica, showed the virus is taking on an average 15 days for mutating.
This, however, does not mean that the virus is becoming dangerous. Rather, these mutations are helping scientists understand their behaviour and origin. “These mutations are completely benign and useful as a puzzle piece to uncover how the virus is spreading,” Nextstrain cofounder Trevor Bedford, a computational biologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, US, was quoted as saying.
“One thing that’s become clear is that genomics data gives you a much richer story about how the outbreak is unfolding,” Bedford said. Looking at the evolution of the virus also helped scientists debunk the conspiracy theory that the virus might have originated in laboratories.
The novel SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that emerged in the city of Wuhan, China, last year and has since caused a large scale COVID-19 epidemic is the product of natural evolution, according to a study published in the journal Nature Medicine. The analysis of public genome sequence data from SARS-CoV-2 and related viruses found no evidence that the virus was made in a laboratory or otherwise engineered.
“By comparing the available genome sequence data for known coronavirus strains, we can firmly determine that SARS-CoV-2 originated through natural processes,” said corresponding author on the paper Kristian Andersen, Associate Professor of Immunology and Microbiology at Scripps Research Institute in the US.