Nearly a third of COVID-19 samples show mutation, but not worse disease: WHO

GENEVA (Reuters) – Nearly 30% of genome sequencing data from samples of the COVID-19 virus collected by the World Health Organization (WHO) have shown signs of mutation, but there is no evidence that this has led to a more serious illness. The WHO official said Friday.

“I think it is quite widespread,” Soumya Swaminathan, WHO chief scientist, told Reuters on the sidelines of a briefing by the UN journalists association ACANU in Geneva.

The UN agency so far has collected 60,000 samples of the disease, he said.

Scientists at Scripps Research this month discovered that in April the mutated virus accounted for about 65% of cases sent from the world to a major database.

The genetic mutation in the new coronavirus, designated D614G, significantly increases its ability to infect cells and may explain why outbreaks in northern Italy and New York were larger than previously seen in the pandemic, they found in a study. .

Maria Van Kerkhove, technical director of the COVID-19 pandemic at WHO, said at the briefing on Friday that the mutated strain had been identified in early February and had been circulating in Europe and the Americas.

“So far, there is no evidence that it leads to a more serious illness,” he said.

Josephine Mason and Mark Potter Edition

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