March 25, 2020

Iceland scientists found 40 mutations of the coronavirus, report says

Electron microscope image shows the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Scientists in Iceland found 40 mutations of the coronavirus among people with the deadly bug in the country — and that seven infections came from people who attended the same soccer match in the UK, according to a report.

The researchers discovered the mutations — or small changes in the genome of the virus — by analyzing swabs of COVID-19 patients in the country, where nearly 648 cases had been reported as of Tuesday afternoon, according to the Iceland outlet Information.

Health authorities, along with biopharmaceutical firm deCODE Genetics, tested 9,768 people, including those who had already been diagnosed, people with symptoms and high-risk populations.

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Some 5,000 people who did not show any symptoms agreed to participate — and 48 came back with positive results for the virus.

The results ultimately helped deCODE Genetics determine how the rampant virus entered Iceland in the first place.

“Some came from Austria,” Kári Stefánsson, director of the company, told the outlet, according to a translation by the Daily Mail.

“There is another type from people who were infected in Italy. And there is a third type of virus found in people infected in England. Seven people had attended a football match in England.”

The study has yet to be formally reviewed by other scientists.

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But Allan Randrup Thomsen, a virologist with the Department of Immunology and Microbiology at the University of Copenhagen, told the Iceland outlet that the findings “make good sense.”

“It is interesting with the 40 specific variants that fall into three clusters that can be traced back to specific sources of infection,” the professor said. “Coronavirus is known as a virus that can mutate reasonably violently. We have seen reports of variants from China already. That way, it fits well with what one expects.”

A previous study conducted in China and published early this month indicates that two separate types of the novel coronavirus — one more aggressive than the other — had been infecting people since the start of the outbreak.

Over time, it’s likely that the new virus will become more contagious, but the variants that cause severe symptoms may die out, Dr. Derek Gatherer, an infectious disease specialist at Lancaster University, told the Mail.

That process, he said, “may take a couple of years.”

New York Post