The existence of at least three types of Coronavirus does not represent great news in the scientific field, but it is certainly a step forward in the genomic study of the virus. Through this confirmation it is possible to think of emergency plans in future pandemics.
All the countries involved in the COVID-19 emergency immediately took action to decipher the genome of the virus that circulates locally. This is a standard protocol in the event of an outbreak.
Health authorities can thus confirm that they are working on the same strain and, at the same time, keep track of possible viral mutations. Each change is shared within the scientific community and this allows us to monitor the epidemic.
Previous studies had established the existence of two variants of SARS-CoV-2, named S and L. The variant L was a little more aggressive and at a faster rate of contagion.
Research carried out by the University of Cambridge and published on March 30 found three different types of Coronavirus in the analyzed genomes that correspond to the same SARS-CoV-2 strain. The new names are A, B and C.
Coronavirus and mutations
The coronavirus responsible for the current pandemic is an RNA virus. This means that its genetic information is contained in ribonucleic acid. All RNA viruses mutate somewhat, due to their difficulty in controlling the duplication process.
Once inside the cells, the Coronavirus exploits the mechanisms to replicate. Recall that viruses need a host to be able to multiply, since they do not have their own structures to be able to do so independently.
RNA viruses, such as SARS-CoV-2, lack an efficient mechanism for controlling the new ribonucleic acid they build within the host cell. Therefore, every time it replicates, the virus runs a high risk of mutation.
A similar example is provided by the influenza virus, also of the RNA type. Every year, as we know, a new flu vaccine is produced from the strains mutated in the last season, based on the assumption that each winter we will have to face a new flu.
Three types of Coronavirus
The aforementioned study claims to have identified three types of Coronavirus in the world, based on sequenced genomes. These three types are linked to the three main contagion groups of this pandemic.
The researchers used the letters A, B and C. Each letter is linked to a contagion cluster , ie groups of infection chains in which the same genetic load of the virus is present. This allows us to monitor the spread of the virus.
Type A is more similar to the Coronavirus which started its path in bats and pangolins in China. It would be the type that infected the first patients in the Chinese city of Wuhan in November or December 2019. However, at the moment, it is not the predominant type in China.
Then we have type B. This, on the other hand, is currently the most widespread in China and also in East Asia. In these areas it coexists with type C, but is predominant.
Finally, group C is the most widespread type in Europe. The outbreaks in Italy and Great Britain can easily be traced back to this variety, which should be a type B mutation.
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What is the use of knowing that there are three types of Coronavirus?
All genomes identified in this pandemic are made public. This means that every laboratory that decrypts the genetic sequence of SARS-CoV-2 in their country enters it in the same database.
This information is invaluable for current research and will be in the future as well, something the Cambridge research team is convinced of. According to the most optimistic forecasts, knowing the Coronavirus genomes will improve the global response to new pandemics.
Identifying the three types of Coronavirus is also useful for preparing vaccines and drugs. The creation of specific anti COVID-19 components, which can interact with the virus, requires knowledge of RNA codes.
Three types of Coronavirus, but only one pandemic
Although there are three different forms of the virus, we actually keep talking about the same strain. This is SARS-CoV-2, the same party from Wuhan and which has spread throughout the planet even if its nature leads it to change. The prevention measures remain the same, although the data continues to be updated by news and new research.