The novel coronavirus has mutated which could have very deadly complications for the pandemic, a new small study finds.
A team of Chinese researchers from Zhejiang University say there are at least 30 strains of the virus, known as SARS-COV-2.
Strains within China were some of the most dangerous and resembled ones that spread across Europe, reported the South China Morning Post.
Meanwhile, the weaker strains appeared to largely congregate within the US.
The authors say their findings are the first to show that the mutation could affect affect the severity of illness.
Researchers from Zhejiang University in China have found at least 30 strains of the virus, known as SARS-COV-2, with 19 being new
Some of the deadliest mutations were Zhejiang, where the university is located, as well as in several European countries
Milder mutations were the varieties mostly found in the United States, such as in Washington state. Pictured: A lab technician begins semi-automated testing for COVID-19 at Northwell Health Labs in Lake Success, New York on March 11
For the study, published on the preprint service medRxiv.org on Sunday, the team analyzed viral strains from 11 Chinese coronavirus patients.
The Post reported that, next, they tested how effectively the virus could infect and kill human cells.
Surprisingly, the team found some of the deadliest mutations in Zhejiang, where the university is located.
These mutations had also been seen in several hard-hit European countries such as Italy and Spain.
Additionally, the most aggressive strains could created up to 270 times as much viral load as the least potent type.
However, some of the milder mutations were the varieties largely found in the US, including Washington state.
‘Sars-CoV-2 has acquired mutations capable of substantially changing its pathogenicity,’ the authors wrote, according to the Post.
The researchers warned that just because the mutations were milder, it didn’t mean there was a low risk of mortality,
Two patients in Zhejiang, one in their 30s and one in their 50s, became severely ill after contracting weaker strains.
Although both recovered, the elder patient required treatment in a hospital’s intensive care unit.
Researchers detected about 30 mutations in total. About 60 percent of them, or 19, were new.
The authors say that patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, have been receiving the same treatment at hospital regardless of what strain they have.
They say that strains may need different efforts to fight the virus.
‘Drug and vaccine development, while urgent, need to take the impact of these accumulating mutations…into account to avoid potential pitfalls,’ the researchers said.
Worldwide, more than 2.45 million people have been infected and more than 168,000 people have died.
In the US, there are more than 771,000 confirmed cases of the virus and more than 41,000 deaths.