The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, mutates about once a week, that is, twice as often as previously thought, a study by geneticists from the universities of Bath and Edinburgh in the UK showed. This is stated in a press release from the University of Bath.
The authors of the work found that until now, coronavirus researchers have not noticed many mutations and they have not been sequenced or taken into account when assessing the rate of emergence of new strains.
In their opinion, examples of “negative selection” were most often overlooked, when the mutation that happened is harmful to the virus itself and reduces its chances of survival.
while the attention of scientists focused on examples of positive selection, when the new strain received advantages over the old, for example, as a more contagious “delta”.
The study also confirmed that if a person is sick with COVID-19 for more than a few weeks, the virus can mutate in his body, one of the authors of the study, Professor Lawrence Hirst, said through the university press service.
He recalled that in this way the alpha strain of the coronavirus appeared, which is considered the result of the evolution of the virus inside a person, which could not quickly recover.
The press release says that this proves the need for careful isolation of patients with a protracted form of COVID-19.
The study was conducted by staff at the Milner Center for Evolution at the University of Bath and the Human Genetics Department of the Medical Research Council at the University of Edinburgh. Their results are published in Genome Biology and Evolution.