GENEVA (Reuters) – Nearly 30% of genome sequence 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 disease, a top WHO an official said on Friday.
“I think it’s quite widespread,” Soumya Swaminathan, WHO’s chief scientist, told Reuters on the sidelines for an orientation held by the UN journalist association ACANU in Geneva.
The UN agency has so far collected 60,000 samples of the disease, she said.
Researchers at Scripps Research this month found that the mutated virus in April accounted for about 65% of cases transmitted from around the world to a large database.
The genetic mutation in the new coronavirus, designated D61
Maria Van Kerkhove, technical leader of the COVID-19 pandemic at WHO, said at Friday’s briefing that the mutant strain had been identified as early as February and had circulated in Europe and America.
“So far, there is no evidence that it leads to more serious illnesses,” she said.
Editing by Josephine Mason and Mark Potter