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Coronavirus Information Center

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - FEBRUARY 19: Clinical support technician Douglas Condie extracts viruses from swab samples so that the genetic structure of a virus can be analysed and identified in the coronavirus testing laboratory at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, on February 19, 2020 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Jane Barlow - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

There may be hopeful news in the fight against coronavirus, as researchers say the bug could be losing its strength. According to the New York Post, “A mutation in the novel coronavirus mirrors a change that occurred in the genetically similar SARS virus in 2003 — indicating that the bug might be weakening.”

Using a new technology called next-generation sequencing, researchers are reading the genetic code of the coronavirus to determine how it’s mutating and adapting over time. They found that out of 382 swab samples, one sample was “missing a significant chunk of its genome.” This is the first time researchers have seen a deletion like this in the 16,000 coronavirus genomes that have currently been sequenced.

Dr. Efren Lim, lead study author and an assistant professor at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute, explains that this is of interest because it mirrors a large deletion that arose in the 2003 SARS outbreak where the mutation lessened the strength of that virus.

As the New York Post explains, “a weakened virus that causes less severe symptoms may get a leg up if it is able to spread efficiently through populations by people who don’t know they are infected.” They also add that even with mutations, the virus is still strong enough to make patients significantly sick.