'We Have to Prepare,' Says Thai Expert Over Impending Genetic Code Mutations of Coronavirus

  • Besides six main Coronavirus strains, researchers identified some infrequent mutations, that should be monitored to avoid future risk

  • Thai expert, Thiravat Hemachudha warns against the SARS-CoV-2 mutation

A healthcare expert from Thailand has warned that the novel Coronavirus, which has killed almost 760,000 people and infected more than 20 million individuals globally, is mutating and could return in a different, more contagious, or potentially more dangerous or less dangerous form.

The director of the Health Science Centre of Emerging Diseases at Thailand's Chulalongkorn University, Thiravat Hemachudha, said that the South-east Asian country should start preparing for possible "genetic code alterations" of the SARS-CoV-2.

Coronavirus Situation May Get Worse

Thiravat Hemachudha
Thiravat Hemachudha, Thai Neirologist cop.car.chula.ac.th/ Chulalongkorn University

While citing recent findings from studies conducted in China and Vietnam on the Coronavirus strains in horseshoe bats — which are common in Thailand and the South-east Asian region —Hemachudha said that the time has come to prepare to deal with other possible new strains of the SARS-CoV-2 "which is likely to undergo multiple genetic code alterations."

As per the Thai neurologist, the radical changes in the genetic code of the virus can make the current screening techniques completely useless.

A recent study conducted in China and Vietnam has revealed that it was the human habit of eating wild-animals that made them vulnerable to Coronavirus found in bats that jumped to humans. The research findings also undermine a suggested theory that the COVID-19 causing virus may have escaped from a lab, said Hemachudha.

Coronavirus Mutation

The L strain—the first strain of the novel Coronavirus that emerged in Wuhan, China—is slowly disappearing according to 48,653 genomes that were studied by researchers at the University of Bologna. As per the research, which was published in the journal Frontiers of Microbiology, the strain has mutated during its journey to different continents and five different strains have been produced.

The first mutation was the S strain that appeared at the beginning of 2020 and then in the mid of January 2020, researchers notice two other strains; G and V. As of now, the G strain is the most widespread.

The G strain has mutated to GR and GH stains in the month of February. While the GR strain is common in South America, GH strain is found more frequently in North America. Both of these strains landed in Asia at the beginning of March, more than a month after their spread in Europe. But L and V both the strains are gradually disappearing.

SARS-CoV-2 Wikimedia Commons

However, Federico Giorgi, a researcher at Unibo and coordinator of the study explained, "The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is presumably already optimized to affect human beings, and this explains its low evolutionary change," which means that "the treatments we are developing, including a vaccine, might be effective against all the virus strains."

Apart from these basic six strains of SARS-CoV-2, scientists have identified some infrequent mutations, that need to be monitored properly. In addition, Giorgi said, "Rare genomic mutations are less than 1 percent of all sequenced genomes." He insisted that the ideal procedure is to study and analyze them "so that we can identify their function and monitor their spread."

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