A study carried out by Chinese scientists, more specifically led by the epidemiologist Li Lanjuan together with Zhejiang University, has pointed out that the new COVID-19 could mutate rapidly, which is why multiple strains of the virus explain the different impacts that the pandemic has had around the world.
In addition, they have found direct proof that some of these mutations could create more lethal strains than others. The researchers have observed "various mutations" among the SARS-CoV-2 strains, including one in particular that generates 270 times more viral load —making it more dangerous than the rest— than the less powerful strain.
This study was conducted using viral strains from 11 different coronavirus patients chosen randomly in Hangzhou and it has proved how effectively the strains could infect and kill cells, as reported by the 'South China Morning Post'.
The analysis indicates that the most lethal strains of COVID-19 have been detected in Europe and the United States, with the latter being the country with the highest number of deaths and infections worldwide. They point out that the weaker mutations also represent "a threat to humans", as they still have at least two patients in serious condition and one of them has needed treatment in an intensive care unit (ICU).
Another point made by this study is that "mutations can have a direct impact on the viral load" and they have observed "abundant mutational diversity, including several established mutations for different groups of viruses now circulating globally. "
They have discovered "differences between strains in different geographical areas" and they also state that the different mortality rates that have been recorded in each country remain a mystery since it has been aggravated by different factors such as the age, blood type or health condition of each patient.
The discoverers have concluded that the great diversity of viral strains may have been "greatly underestimated". The study is currently under review and has been published in 'Medvix'.