At least 8 strains of the coronavirus are spreading across the globe
Scientists have identified at least eight strains of coronavirus as the bug wreaks havoc spreading across the globe.
More than 2,000 genetic sequences of the virus have been submitted from labs to the open database NextStain, which shows it mutating on maps in realtime, according to the site.
Researchers said the data, which includes samples every continent except Antarctica, revealed the virus is mutating on average every 15 days, National Geographic reported.
But Nextstrain cofounder Trevor Bedford said the mutations are so small that there is no strain of the virus that is more harmful.
“These mutations are completely benign and useful as a puzzle piece to uncover how the virus is spreading,” Bedford told the outlet.
He said the various strains allow researchers to see whether community transmission is widespread throughout a region, which can inform whether lockdown measures have been effective.
“We’ll be able to tell how much less transmission we’re seeing and answer the question, ‘Can we take our foot off the gas?’” Bedford said.
Charles Chiu, a professor of medicine and infectious disease at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, said that the database also provides insight into how the virus is moving throughout the US, according to USA Today.
“The outbreaks are trackable,” Chiu said. “We have the ability to do genomic sequencing almost in real-time to see what strains or lineages are circulating.”
Most of the cases on the West Coast are linked to a strain first identified in Washington state, which is only three mutations away from the first known strain, the outlet reported.
Meanwhile, on the East Coast, the virus appeared to have come from China to Europe and then to New York and other states.
But Kristian Andersen, a professor at Scripps Research, cautioned that the maps don’t show the full picture of the spread of the virus.
“Remember, we’re seeing a very small glimpse into the much larger pandemic,” Anderson told USA Today. “We have half a million described cases right now but maybe 1,000 genomes sequenced. So there are a lot of lineages we’re missing.”