While the origin of the novel coronavirus has fueled a political spat between the United States and China, the World Health Organisation has stressed on finding the source of SARS-CoV-2. The WHO's director of infectious hazard management Sylvie Briand has told an international news agency on May 13 that it remains critical to understand where the virus came from in a bid to ‘understand how it adapted’. The virus has ‘invaded the human species’ since it was first discovered in China’s Wuhan and has now infected over 4.4 million people across the world along with causing 298,180 deaths.
Since many researchers have speculated that the novel virus is of animal origin, most particularly bats, Briand has said it is important to understand how such virus was able to infect humans. According to her, the virus was transmitted among animals and evolved itself to result in this type which causes the fatal COVID-19 disease. Moreover, if the scientists are able to trace the coronavirus back to its source, they can ‘prevent the phenomenon from happening again’ and even avoid the ‘ping pong’ of its transmission between humans and animals.
The senior WHO official also noted that every time the SARS-CoV-2 ‘jumps’ from one kind of species to another, it ‘can mutate a bit’. Briand said that this could further impact the treatments, vaccines that the researchers are working on to battle the pandemic, however, she reportedly stressed that the entire analysis would take some time. The French scientist reportedly acknowledged the mutation of coronavirus when researchers in London recently found out that the deadly coronavirus is “well adapted to humans”.
After the analysis of over five thousand strains of SARS-CoV-2 from at least 62 countries, the scientists noted that the virus is fairly stable but has gained some mutations including the changes in the genome that impacts the ‘spike protein’ that is used by the virus to infect the human cells. In a non-peer reviewed study led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine states that it still remains unclear how the modifications in the strain are affecting the coronavirus.