Coronavirus live updates: U.S. braces for more disruption as outbreak jolts business; epidemic slows in China
HONG KONG — In a new study, Chinese researchers suggest that there may be two strains of the novel coronavirus causing infections, one more virulent than the other.
The research, published Tuesday by scientists from Peking University’s School of Life Sciences and the Institut Pasteur of Shanghai under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, cautioned that its findings were preliminary and that more research needed to be done.
But the news drew widespread attention in China, where it became the second-highest trending topic on social media site Weibo on Wednesday, and was shared by Chinese state media.
The study, published in the journal of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, National Science Review, said it had identified two different strains of the novel coronavirus, with a more aggressive strain accounting for 70 percent of those they analyzed, while a less aggressive strain accounted for 30 percent.
The less aggressive strain appeared to be the ancestor of the more aggressive one, the researchers noted. While the more aggressive strain appeared to be more prevalent at the start of the outbreak in Wuhan, it subsequently was found less frequently.
“Human intervention may have placed more severe selective pressure” on the aggressive strain, the researchers wrote, while the less aggressive strain “might have increased in relative frequency due to relatively weaker selective pressure.”
The researchers admitted that they could not be confident about their results, given the small sample size, but they suggested that the idea should be investigated further. as it may shed light on the impact that the Chinese government’s intervention had on the virus itself.
“These findings strongly support an urgent need for further immediate, comprehensive studies that combine genomic data, epidemiological data, and chart records of the clinical symptoms of patients with coronavirus disease 2019,” the authors wrote.
China imposed dramatic travel restrictions on Wuhan and other parts of China in late January, placing tens of millions of citizens under strict controls in a bid to prevent the spread of the virus that causes the disease named covid-19.
Although China remained the home of the vast number of novel coronavirus cases, with more than 80,000 in the country so far, it has reported lowering numbers of new cases in the country, with most reported in Hubei, the province that contains Wuhan.