According to a recent study conducted by the University of Bologna in Italy, despite having at least six strains, SARS-CoV-2 virus shows little variability. The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Microbiology. The researchers analysed the sequencing of 48,635 coronavirus genomes, that were isolated in labs all over the world. The spread and the mutations of the virus during its journey to all continents was studied by the researchers. The result showed that the coronavirus has little variability, approximately seven mutations per sample which is good news for scientists working on a viable vaccine for COVID-19. According to the researchers, the Variability rate of Common influenza is more than double.
Federico Giorgi, a researcher at the University of Bologna, and coordinator of the study said, “The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is presumably already optimised to affect human beings, and this explains its low evolutionary change. This means that the treatments we are developing, including a vaccine, might be effective against all the virus strains”.
According to the researchers, from the six strains found present in the novel coronavirus, “The original one is the L strain, that appeared in Wuhan in December 2019. Its first mutation – ‘the S strain’ appeared at the beginning of 2020, while, since mid-January, we have had strains V and G. To date strain G is the most widespread. It mutated into strains GR and GH at the end of February”.
Federico Giorgi added, “Strain G and its related strains GR and GH are by far the most widespread, representing 74 per cent of all gene sequences we analysed. They present four mutations, two of which are able to change the sequence of the RNA polymerase and Spike proteins of the virus. This characteristic probably facilitates the spread of the virus.”
The researchers also found some infrequent mutations that according to them should not be worried about at the moment but should be monitored.