As the deadly virus continues to spread around the world, scientists are desperately trying to find a cure for the global pandemic. And researchers at Arizona State University may have found a mutation that could change the tide in the outbreak.
The mutation is reportedly similar to the change found in the Sars virus back in 2003 and means it could be less likely to get past the immune system.
Former director of the WHO Cancer Programme, Professor Karol Sikora, wrote on Twitter: “Scientists in Arizona have detected a mutation in a Coronavirus sample.
“Don’t be alarmed – it has lost some of its potency.
“When this happened in the SARS outbreak, it marked the beginning of the end.
“Huge caveat – it’s just one sample, we need to see if we can find it elsewhere.”
Researchers at Arizona State University took 382 samples from coronavirus patients in the state and discovered one sample was missing a large section of the virus’ genetic material.
Experts claim this missing section makes the infection weaker and is a signal that the virus is winding down.
Although only one patient in Arizona has been found with the mutation, researchers say if genome sequencing becomes more common, it is likely more cases will emerge.
The coronavirus contains 30,000 letters of ribonucleic acid (RNA) and in a sample, 81 letters were missing.
Dr Efrem Lim said: “These proteins are not just there to replicate – they are in there to help enhance virulence and suppress the immune system.
“It evolved with a more attenuated form in the late phase of the epidemic.”
This news comes after the UK overtook Italy as the country with the most deaths in Europe, with more than 32,000 fatalities recorded since the start of the outbreak.
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The UK is now in its sixth week of the lockdown.
Boris Johnson is expected to lead the No10 press briefing on Sunday where he will sketch the UK’s exit from the lockdown.
Although he will do so, he is not expected to announce any substantial relaxation of the measures.
The UK is also trialling and contact tracing app on the Isle of Wight in order to help the UK as it enters phase two of the virus.
Britain may exit the lockdown by relaxing restriction on more than half of the population by protecting the over 70s.
Under the strategy proposed by the scientists from Edinburgh, a strategy of segmenting and shielding to ease lockdown measures from the majority of people while reducing the contact for the most vulnerable.
Commenting on the strategy, Tory MP, Iain Duncan Smith said: “A lot of people over 70 are fit and have kept themselves fit, often more so than people of other ages.
“There has been a backlash and people don’t think it’s the right way to go about it.”
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