GENEVA - Almost 30 percent of genome sequencing 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 this has led to more severe disease, a top
WHO official said on Friday.
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"I think it's quite widespread," Soumya Swaminathan, WHO chief scientist, told Reuters on the sidelines of a briefing held by the UN journalists' association ACANU in Geneva.
The UN agency has so far collected 60,000 samples of the disease, she said.
The genetic mutation in the new coronavirus, designated D614G, significantly increases its ability to infect cells and may explain why outbreaks in northern Italy and New York were larger than ones seen earlier in the pandemic, scientists found in a study
Scientists at Scripps Research this month found that by April the mutated virus accounted for some 65 percent of cases submitted from around the world to a major database.
The genetic mutation in the new coronavirus, designated D614G, significantly increases its ability to infect cells and may explain why outbreaks in northern Italy and New York were larger than ones seen earlier in the pandemic, they found in a study.
Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead on the COVID-19 pandemic at the WHO, said at Friday's briefing the mutated strain had been identified as early as February and had been circulating in Europe and the Americas.
"So far, there is no evidence it leads to more severe disease," she said.
COVID drug trial results 'within 2 weeks'
The WHO should soon get results from clinical trials it is conducting of drugs that might be effective in treating COVID-19 patients, its Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Friday.
"Nearly 5,500 patients in 39 countries have so far been recruited into the Solidarity trial," he told a news briefing, referring to clinical studies the UN agency is conducting. "We expect interim results within the next two weeks."
The Solidarity Trial started out in five parts looking at possible treatment approaches to COVID-19: standard care; remdesivir; the anti-malaria drug touted by US President Donald Trump, hydroxychloroquine; the HIV drugs lopinavir/ritonavir; and lopanivir/ritonavir combined with interferon.
Earlier this month, it stopped the arm testing hydroxychloroquine, after studies indicated it showed no benefit in those who have the disease, but more work is still needed to see whether it may be effective as a preventative medicine.
Mike Ryan, head of the WHO's emergencies program, said it would be unwise to predict when a vaccine could be ready against COVID-19.
While a vaccine candidate might show its effectiveness by year's end, the question was how soon it could be mass produced, he told the UN journalists' association ACANU in Geneva.
There is no proven vaccine against the disease now, while 18 potential candidates are being tested on humans.
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