US scientists discover mutation which could signal end of coronavirus

It's a step in the right direction.
It's a step in the right direction. Photo credit: Getty

Scientists in Arizona have discovered a mutation of COVID-19 similar to one which ended the SARS epidemic. 

Researchers from Arizona State University took 382 samples from confirmed COVID-19 cases and discovered one of the samples was missing a large chunk of its genetic material.

Lead study author Dr Efren Lim says the discovery mirrors one found in 2003 which signaled the end of the SARS epidemic. 

The lack of genetic material weakens the virus and when it appeared and spread during the SARS outbreak, the outbreak wound down and was contained within five months.

The appearance of the mutation is a positive sign, says Dr Lim.

"One sample is the convincing thing we need to say ‘Look at this," he told The Daily Mail.

"If more coronavirus genomes are sequenced, scientists might find far more instances of this attenuated genome."

However the mutation is still just "a drop in the bucket" according to Dr Lim. There are more than three million confirmed cases worldwide and this is the first time the mutation has been noticed. 

If genome testing becomes more widespread Dr Lim says it's possible there could be more instances of the mutation.