Chinese doctors reviewing a new flare-up of coronavirus infections in northern China believe COVID-19 may have undergone significant changes, making the virus more difficult to detect and harder to beat.
Bloomberg News reported:
Patients found in the northern provinces of Jilin and Heilongjiang appear to carry the virus for a longer period of time and take longer to test negative, Qiu Haibo, one of China's top critical care doctors, told state television on Tuesday.
Patients in the northeast also appear to be taking longer than the one to two weeks observed in Wuhan to develop symptoms after infection, and this delayed onset is making it harder for authorities to catch cases before they spread, said Qiu, who is now in the northern region treating patients.
Among the noticeable differences with the cluster of new infections is where the virus attacks.
According to Qui, COVID-19 results in multi-organ damage — including in the kidneys, liver, and lungs — but the new infections mostly show signs of lung damage.
On the positive side, only 10% of the reported new cases have become critical, according to Bloomberg.
However, what is not yet scientifically clear is whether COVID-19 has undergone significant genetic mutation. But, even if it has, there is no evidence showing whether such changes would result in a strain of the virus that is more contagious to humans.
"In theory, some changes in the genetic structure can lead to changes in the virus structure or how the virus behaves," Keiji Fukuda, director and clinical professor at the University of Hong Kong's School of Public Health, told Bloomberg.
"However, many mutations lead to no discernible changes at all," he explained.
News of possible virus changes come as China instituted a new lockdown in the northern part of the country where the cluster of new infections is located.
The new lockdown reportedly impacts 108 million people in China's northeast region.