China’s Covid outbreak driven by existing strains, global consortium finds – Times of India


The Covid-19 outbreak that’s hitting China is being caused by strains of the virus that have already circled the world, with no signs yet of significant new mutations emerging, according to officials at a global consortium that’s tracking the pandemic.
Chinese authorities submitted 25 new genetic samples from Beijing, Inner Mongolia and Guangzhou taken in the past month to GISAID, a database where scientists from around the world share coronavirus sequences as a way to monitor mutations. Tiny changes, which occur naturally as the virus passes from one person to another, have allowed scientists to track how the pathogen has moved in China and provide reassurance about its direction thus far.
“There is no evidence at this point to suggest there is any new variant of any significance,” Peter Bogner, chief executive officer of GISAID, said in a telephone interview.
The details gathered from the genetic samples are a snapshot of the current situation in China, said Sebastian Maurer-Stroh, chief scientist at GISAID’s global data science center in Singapore. It hasn’t been brewing its own independent variant, but instead imported strains are circulating, he said.
Variant worries
Some global health authorities and governments have expressed concern the outbreak in China, which may be experiencing as many as 37 million new infections a day, could spur the development of dangerous new variants that would once again sweep across the world. It’s unclear how the virus will act next in China, given that its earlier no-tolerance approach and reliance on inactivated vaccines have created a very different immunity landscape.
The samples submitted by the Chinese Centers for Disease Control and Prevention closely resemble existing strains found among GISAID’s 14.4 million Covid genomes, the officials said. The closest related genomes, to subvariants of omicron known as BF.7 and BA.5.2, were collected in the US and Russia this summer.
There were several independent imports of infection among the cases in Guangzhou, made up of the earlier BA.5.2 omicron subvariant, Maurer-Stroh said. The Inner Mongolia outbreak stemmed from the more recent BF.7 variant, and spread from there to Beijing, the data show.
China has been working closely with GISAID as the outbreak flared up. That relationship should help inform the world if any worrisome mutations do emerge, the officials said.
“We have no idea where this virus may go,” said Maurer-Stroh, who is also executive director of the Bioinformatics Institute at Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research. “Right now the snapshot doesn’t give away anything. The rest is speculation.”





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