Scientists have discovered that the novel coronavirus COVID-19 that has taken the world by a storm is not mutating significantly as it moves across the population, international media reported. This means the pathogen is less likely to become more dangerous as it spreads, giving researchers hope that they could create a long-lasting vaccine for the deadly virus that has killed over 18,500 people across the globe in a matter of few months.
According to reports, scientists have revealed that there was no evidence of deadlier strains in some areas as compared to others. Previous research suggests that viruses replicate imperfectly inside the cells of their host before spreading through a population, with some of those mutations persisting through natural selection. However, the COVID-19 pathogen reportedly has a proofreading mechanism that reduces the error rate during their replication.
Scientists now are studying more than 1,000 different samples of the virus, Peter Thielen, a molecular geneticist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory who has been studying the virus, informed international media. There are only about 4 to 10 genetic differences between the strains that have infected people in the United States in addition to the original virus that spread in China's Wuhan region, he added.
Researchers believe that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease COVID-19, was similar to coronaviruses that circulate naturally in bats. It jumped into the human species last year in Wuhan likely through an intermediate species like pangolins or snakes which are consumed by the people in the region.