SCIENTISTS have discovered a new coronavirus mutation that suggest the bug might be weakening.

It’s similar to a change found in the Sars virus in 2003, that marked a changing tide in that outbreak, the experts said.

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Researchers have found that the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 can infect cells of the intestine and multiply thereCredit: medicalxpres


In one sample taken from the Arizona State University research, scientists found a deletion of 81 genes – a pattern that was also seen in the SARS outbreak

The new mutation could mean the virus is less likely to get past the body’s immune system, the team at Arizona State University said.

They took 382 samples from coronavirus patients in the state and found that one viral sample was missing a large section of the bug’s genetic material.

It is similar to what happened with the original Sars virus, which triggered an epidemic in 2003.

It makes the infection weaker, the experts said – adding, that it signalled the start of the Sars outbreak winding down.

While only one patient in Arizona has been found to have this new mutation of Sars-CoV-2, the researchers say if genome sequencing for the virus becomes more common, more cases may emerge.

The study’s author said the “pretty meaningful development” could push scientists in the right direction when it comes to the development of a vaccine.

Covid virus compared to HIV

The study also drew comparisons with HIV – a virus that constantly mutates, making billions of copies in a single day.

But the research suggests that Covid-19 is more “reliable” than HIV – giving scientists more of a chance to develop a vaccine to conquer it.

Dr Efrem Lim said the SARS virus acquired large deletions in “SS3 proteins”, which is also being seen now.

The study in Arizona sequenced 382 nasal swab samples.

The coronavirus consists of 30,000 letters of ribonucleic acid (RNA) and in one of the samples it was found that 81 letters were missing.

Dr Lim told“These proteins are not just there to replicate – they are in there to help enhance virulence and suppress the immune system.



Researchers monitored the response of the cells to the virus, providing a new cell culture modelCredit: medicalxpres

“It evolved with a more attenuated form in the late phase of the epidemic.”

This means that Sars had changed to be weaker as time went on.

But Dr Lim admits that the sample is a “drop in the bucket” when it comes to the various sequences of the virus being displayed. 

He said if more coronavirus genomes are sequenced then scientists might find more instances of attenuated genome.

The development in Arizona comes after a team from the University of Dundee’s School of Life Sciences released some of the clearest pictures yet recorded of the virus.

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They show the formation of Sars-CoV-2 particles – the virus which causes Covid-19 – in a tissue model of the human gut viewed in an ultra-powerful microscope.

Each of the images is greater than 30-50 GBytes – which is 500 to 1,000 times larger than an image recorded on an iPhone.

They also show the virus assembling and leaving human intestinal cells.

Scientists from the University of Dundee’s School of Life Sciences worked alongside the Hubrecht Institute in Utrecht, the Erasmus MC University Medical Centre in Rotterdam and Maastricht University in the Netherlands to isolate the pictures.


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