There are thousands of strains of COVID-19

September 24, 2020
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Scientists at Houston Methodist hospital sequenced the genomes of 5,085 coronavirus strains from two outbreaks. The first wave occurred in early March and the much bigger one took place in June.

According to the study pre-print, the genomes were from viruses recovered in the earliest recognized phase of the pandemic in Houston, and an ongoing massive second wave of infections.

Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the College of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine says word of mutations is not a revelation. He says RNA viruses mutate all the time.

"So far the mutations have not accumulated to the point where they would change the vaccines you would want to design, nor are they changing to the point where I think they are significantly affecting how aggressive the virus is in terms of affecting people or severity of illness, but it's something I we will have to continue to watch."

He says the  data has been useful to identify where the virus came from.  For example, the virus that hit New York came from Europe.

The study shows the virus was originally introduced into Houston many times independently.   The researchers said that the study is intended to help scientists understand the composition and trajectory of future infection waves.

This study has not been peer reviewed, and was limited to cases in the Houston area, an ethnically diverse region with seven million residents.

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