We know that the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for the coronavirus pandemic is highly adaptable and has mutated considerably since it was first discovered. Now a team of scientists from the UK has identified more than 200 genetic mutations in the virus. This study shows how the virus has evolved and adapted among its human hosts. Interestingly, they also found a similar large variation of genetic pool in all the hardest-hit countries, negating the suggestion of a single ‘patient zero’.
The study was published in the journal Infection, Genetics and Evolution. To gather their information, the team studied the genetic make-up of more than 7,500 viruses from infected people across the world. They used data from various sources in the global scientific community, which gave them access to over 11,000 complete genome sequences of the SARS-CoV-2. They found 198 mutations that occurred independently of each other and at multiple times.
These findings suggest that the virus shares a common ancestor and was probably in circulation among humans long before it was detected. They also found that the diversity of the genome in the UK was similar to what they saw across the world. This suggested that the virus entered the country through multiple hosts independently. This refutes the theory of a ‘patient zero’. This research is also critical in the development of the vaccine since the evolution of the genome can hinder its efficacy.