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Coronavirus may have entered India as early as November 2019, scientists estimate

According to the researchers, the most recent common ancestor (MRCA) of Indian strains of novel coronavirus originated between November 26 and December 25, the median being December 11

twitter-logo BusinessToday.In        Last Updated: June 5, 2020  | 11:27 IST
Coronavirus may have entered India as early as November 2019, scientists estimate
Kerala reported the country's first COVID-19 case on January 30 this year

Scientists from top Indian research institutes have assessed that the ancestor of COVID-19 virus strain with roots in China made inroads in India as early as November 2019.

According to the researchers, the most recent common ancestor (MRCA) of Indian strains of novel coronavirus originated between November 26 and December 25, the median being December 11.

They evaluated this timeline by employing a scientific technique called "time to most recent common ancestor" (MRCA), according to a report in the Times of India.

Also Read: With SE Asian and European coronavirus, India likely got lucky with weaker strain: CCMB

However, scientists are unsure if the virus had made its presence felt in India during that time since no tests were conducted before January.

Kerala reported the country's first COVID-19 case on January 30 this year. Researchers are not clear if the virus first entered India through passengers from China prior to January 30.

Meanwhile, scientists have not only evaluated the age of the latest common ancestor of several strains of coronavirus but also detected a new strain, or clade (variant), that is unlike the existing ones. The new strain is named Clade I/A3i by the researchers, the news report added.

A clade strain is defined as a class of organism considered to include all the evolutionary offsprings of a common ancestor.

Also Read: Coronavirus vaccine: PM Modi pledges $15 million to global alliance GAVI

The virus subtype identified in India's first COVID-19 case in Kerala belonged to the Wuhan ancestor, whereas the one strain detected in Hyderabad (Clade me/A3i) is unique, as it did not originate in China, but somewhere else in Southeast Asia, but where in there is not known, Dr. Rakesh K Mishra, Director of Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) told the news daily.

Whilst the most recent common ancestor of the new virus strain (Clade I/A3i) was in circulation between January 17 and February 25, with the median being February 8.

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